I.R.E’s Documentary Heritage

The century-old history of the almshouses and charitable institutions of the Republic of Venice as well as the city’s social welfare history.

The over one-thousand-year-old archives of the Venetian opere pie are today an integral part of the I.R.E. properties – an organisation that since 1939 has united in a single administration the charitable and welfare institutes that have been operating in Venice since the Middle Ages.

I.R.E.’s historical archive details the century-old history of the almshouses and charitable institutions of the Republic of Venice as well as the city’s later social welfare history, spanning from the mid-thirteenth century to the present day. It is also a source of information on family genealogies, history of economics, trades, music, urban planning, and spirituality.

The oldest archive material consists of the records of the Ospedale dei Derelitti ai Santi Giovanni e Paolo (known as Ospedaletto, established in 1528), Casa dei Catecumeni (1557), Pia Casa delle Zitelle on the Giudecca island (1559), Casa del Soccorso (1580), and Pia Casa delle Penitenti di San Giobbe (1700).

I.R.E. also holds the partial record collections of old institutions such as the Ospedale dei Mendicanti (reborn in 1600 at Fondamenta Nuove, now seat of the Ospedale Civile), Ca’ di Dio (1272), and the medieval Ospizi (spanning from the tenth to the eighteenth century), that were once managed by the Procuratori of Saint Mark.

The most substantial archive material held by I.R.E. is that dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century with complete family records such as the Formenti–Ottoboni, Antonio Massarini, Francesco Moro, Benzi Zecchini, G. B. Sceriman, Astori, and Giovanni Conti archives.

Another notable donation was that of Abbot Germanico Bernardi, who in 1849 donated a collection of 475 musical manuscripts to the Casa del Ricovero.

Lastly, in 1981 Tomaso Filippi’s complete photographic studio archive (with over 7,000 plates dating 1880–1920) was donated by his daughter Elvira to I.R.E.’s Casa di Riposo Santi Giovanni e Paolo. This donation is the most comprehensive and therefore the most valuable testimony of the visual culture of Venice between the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth. In 2002, the Archive was stored in the offices of the I.R.E. conservator in the Ospedale dei Derelitti complex.