The ICCD was founded in 1975, as part of the newly created Ministry for Cultural and Environmental Properties (now the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities). Its mission is to manage Italy’s national catalogue of archaeological, architectural, artistic and demo-ethno-anthropological heritage.
The formation of the ICCD was partially based on two previous institutions, both with objectives for the preservation and knowledge of cultural heritage. One was the Office for Cataloguing, founded in 1969, which was responsible for defining national cataloguing methodologies and coordinating the work of the responsible sections. The other was the National Photographic Bureau (Gabinetto fotografico nazionale, or GFN), which was founded in 1892, as the principle national institution for production and collection of photo documentation. In 1959, the GFN received an added mandate with the annexation of the National Collection of Aerial Photography.
Thus, in addition to its roles in cataloguing, today the ICCD is also responsible for developing, maintaining and providing public access for important photograph collections. It also produces exhibits, catalogues and other publications to support cataloguing and to improve awareness and knowledge concerning its historic collections.
The objective of national cataloguing is to develop systematic documentation of all types of cultural properties specified in Italian law on landscape and heritage properties, including information on their historic and environmental context, in a manner that permits their enhancement and protection.
The ICCD is responsible for promoting the development and regional articulation of the national catalogue of archaeological, architectural, artistic, ethno-anthropological, scientific-technical and natural heritage. It works with Italy’s administrative regions to define consistent, standardised cataloguing methodologies and procedures. For integrated acquisition and management, it has developed the Internet-based ‘General Information System for Cataloguing’ (SIGEC Web). This system assures quality data and adherence to national standards.
The ICCD also cooperates with universities and other institutions to offer training and internships that guarantee appropriate qualifications for cataloguers working in the various disciplinary sectors.
Photographic documentation is carried out by three ICCD sectors with distinct roles: the National Photographic Bureau (GFN), the National Collection of Aerial Photography and the Museum of Historic Photography. As a whole, these create a unique centre of national excellence in historic photography.
The institute also holds an exceptionally thorough collection of equipment related to the history of photography, photo printing and photographic map plotting.