The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) Rome photo archive

The Digital Photo Archive of the DAI Rome

to structured stock

full access to unstructured stock


The Institute's collection of photographs dates back to the invention of photography itself. After the death of Walther Amelung in1927, the Institute inherited the collection that he had acquired for his own research purposes. From 1928 onwards, his successor, Ludwig Curtius, proceeded to systematically organize and expand the photo archive, thus giving it its current form. In the early 1930s, the Institute acquired a laboratory and established the post of an in-house photographer. As a result, the collection has grown considerably and extensive photo campaigns have given it varying content. Today the Roman photo archive is a unique research tool in archaeology.

Inventory and Focus

The photo archive consists of roughly 280,000 black-and-white photographs of which 200,000 are available as negatives. The collection is arranged according to the main categories within classical archaeological research:

  • Ideal sculpture (deities; mythological figures; non-mythological statues; animals; mythical creatures/chimeras)
  • Portrait sculpture (Greek; Etruscan-Italic; Roman)
  • Sarcophagi (Greek; Etruscan; Republican-Early Imperial; Imperial; Christian)
  • Reliefs (Greek; Greek/South Italian; Etruscan; Roman)
  • Architectural sculpture (Greece; Magna Graecia; Italy; support figures; theatre decorations; architectural elements; historic reliefs)
  • Inscriptions (Greek; Latin)
  • Stucco (Etruscan; Roman)
  • Fresco painting (Etruscan; Italic/South Italian; Pompeian; Roman)
  • Mosaics (focus on: Italy; Roman provinces)
  • Topography (Greece; Italy; selected Roman provinces)
  • Vases (Proto-geometric; Geometric; Proto-Corinthian; Corinthian; Eastern Greek; Western Greek; Lakonian; Chalcidian; Boeotian; Attic; Italic-Etruscan; South Italian; Hellenistic; Roman)
  • Terracotta (focus on Italy: figurative, architectural)
  • Bronze (statuettes; mirrors; arms; devices; vessels)
  • Minor arts (glass; gemstones; prints of intaglios)
  • Pictures of stone monuments in Italian country towns.

The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) Rome photo archive in iDAI.Images Arachne

Information about the identity numbers of the negatives

All negatives of the institute feature a negative number, i.e. inventory number composed of a four-digit date (year of the inventory, not the shot) and a continuous four-digit number. The abbreviation D-DAI Rom prior to the altogether eight-digit number brands the negative as belonging to the photo archive of the DAI Rome.

Therefore the negative numbers are stated as follows:

Bsp.: D-DAI-ROM-1938.1329; D-DAI-ROM-2007.0023

Negatives without date are part of the stock existing prior to 1928, e.g. D-DAI-ROM-00013).

Within the stock of the photo archive are also negative numbers with inserted letter codes marking special groups of pictures within the collection (e.g. estates or bigger projects with regard to content).

Following groups are currently available in iDAI.Images:

  • D-DAI-ROM-W.93= Tatianer Warscher, topographical photographs of Pompeii (unstructured stock)
  • D-DAI-ROM-96.Vat.1365= Vatican-project, collection of antique sculpture (structured and unstructured stock)
  • D-DAI-ROM-RA-00322= Estate Friedrich Rakob (structured stock)

iDAI.Images – DAI Rome photo archive – Structured stock

Within the structured stock of iDAI.Images Arachne most of the currently digitized pictures of the photo archive of the DAI Rome are structured by objects. Apart from the ordinary search via the meta search engine, the welcome page offers the possibility to search via the extended search in order to immediately browse the desired object class. Alternatively one can search for the negative number of a picture via the meta search engine (e.g. D-DAI-ROM-89.746 (old label) or D-DAI-ROM-1961.0629 (new label)).

iDAI.Images –DAI Rome photo archive – Unstructured stock

Since May 2009, the growing digital stock of the photo archive of the DAI Rome is being managed via the unstructured stock of iDAI.Images Arachne. These images can be found by using the meta search engine on the welcome page of iDAI.Images Arachne. The extended search engine leads to the unstructured stock as well. This function offers direct access to the existing file structure in sorting the pictures chronologically by year.

The picture files are to be continuously transferred to the structured stock, i.e. the object based iDAI.Images Arachne, within the following years.

iDAI.Images – Sculpture negatives

Via iDAI.Images Arachne you reach the digitized sculpture negatives which focus on the Roman photo archive. The complete stock up to and including 1991 is available.

iDAI.Images – From the estate of Josef Röder

The photographic estate of Josef Röders developed during his numerous travels and research about antique stone quarries and rock types of the Mediterranean area.

Monumentbrowser – Trajan´s Column

Among the monument browsers of iDAI.Images Arachne there is the so-called browser of Trajan´s Column.

Within this picture browser, the complete relief frieze of Trajan´s Column is presented, divided into individual scenes. Using a continuous graphic rendering or the scene search within the extended search engine, one has direct access to individual scenes and the associated pictures.

iDAI.Bookbrowser – Online Edition of the Amelung-Catalogue

In the 1980s and 1990s numerous photo campaigns by the Rome department took place in the sculpture collection of the Vatican Museums. The approximately 6,000 pictures originated during these campaigns are digitized and entered in the online edition of the Vatican Catalogue by Walter Amelung in cooperation with the CoDArchLab since 2008.

The online edition of the Amelung catalogue therefore exists of the links between the publication by Amelung existing in the Bookbrowser, the picture in the structured stock and the continuative literature.

iDAI.Bookbrowser – Inventory registers of the DAI Rome photo archive

Until the late 1990s, inventory registers of the roman department´s photo collection were used to manage the institute´s own negatives, those acquired from other institutions or those obtained through donations. Generally there are two types of inventory books: books with no annual inventory figures from the period of 1885 – 1927 and inventory books with a chronological year value from 1928 to 1998. In cooperation with the CoDArchLab the registers were digitized and edited for online research. Access to the inventory books is now possible via the iDAI.Bookbrowser.

By typing “Inventarbuch” and the desired year (e.g. 1929) in the look-up field on the welcome page of iDAI.Images Arachne, you reach a list of all inventory books sorted chronologically by year.

As an additional feature for the picture research within the inventory books, we aim at showing the associated picture next to every negative number.

The inventory books contain lists composed of nine columns including the following information (from left to right):

  • Photo No.
  • Date of inventory
  • Negative Format
  • Photographer
  • A short description of the object
  • Repository at the time of admission
  • Comments (e.g. dimensions, references etc.)
  • Slide No.
  • Negative No.

A missing negative number means that the photo archive of the DAI Rome department does not own the negative but has bought, inherited or respectively got it as a present.

Image Grid DAI Rome

The agglomeration of data in iDAI.Images Arachne over the last three years led to the insight that the manual labour of creating metadata for every image seemed impractical. Between 2002 an 2007 the number of images stored in iDAI.Images Arachne expanded from 50,000 to 200,000; our present stock of 800,000 images represents an increase of about 400%. In cooperation with the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Rome, the `Image Grid Project´ is seeking to solve these problems.

With the `Image Grid Project´, we have automatically contextualized about 400,000 images from the photo library of the DAI Rome. The images were digitized using old microfiche-slides and the only information was printed index. We have created a digital image database using OCR, in order to take the structure of this index and by using the negative numbers of the images. We have also linked images automatically with complex metadata, which are derived from digitized inventories, scientific reference works, images which are now already stored in iDAI.Images Arachne and other sources. Negative numbers are also used to connect images with OCR-texts (as in the iDAI.Bookbrowser or GoogleBooks), and by extracting knowledge from these books via text-mining we can connect new metadata to these digital images.

The German Archaeological Institute (DAI) only sells photos for which it has the copyright!


German Archaeological Institute
Rome Department
Via Curtatone, 4 d
00185 Roma


Telephone: 39-06-4888141
Fax: 39-06-4884973

Last updated: 06-25-2014
The Rome photo archive on the German Archaeological Institute's website