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After a full 180 days of closure, the Warburg Institute has opened its doors again. The foyer is full of warnings about mandatory masks and minimum distances, and Perspex shields now welcome visitors to the desks in Reception and our Reading Rooms. But it feels great to be back in the building, reconnecting with colleagues and chasing half a year’s worth of references in the library stacks. And it is uplifting to do so as the new academic year begins—one in which we welcome a record number of new students.
We are still some way off from ‘business as usual,’ and the fact that our first few seminars and staff meetings were held on Zoom serve to remind us of the changes and challenges. The coronavirus will be with us for months if not years; Brexit (with or without the deal that is still being negotiated) will happen; and these medical and political uncertainties have already taken their toll on budgets in many sectors—including museums and universities. But there are silver linings to be found in both new working patterns and digital platforms: I’m sure we are not alone at the Warburg in experiencing vastly increased audiences for our events, along with a general sense that there is more time for reading and writing than there has been for some time.
It was also possible, against the odds, to open two historic exhibitions on Aby Warburg in Berlin last month. It marked the first time that the legendary Bilderatlas Mnemosyne has been reconstructed using Warburg’s original materials since 1929, and the first time so many materials from the Institute travelled back to Germany since it was exiled to London in 1933. For those who are not able to visit Berlin, we have created a complete virtual tour and it will be launched on our website in the next few weeks. Whether you are able to visit the shows in person or explore them on your computer screen, we hope that Warburg’s great vehicle for travel through time and space will lift your sights above present woes and inspire you to study, question or simply wonder.

Professor Bill Sherman


We're delighted to share the Warburg Institute’s first Annual Review. We have been producing an Annual Report — with a detailed account of all activities — since the Institute moved to London in 1933. But this publication will provide a concise introduction to the Warburg and a lively summary of each year’s highlights. 

Download the annual review


The Warburg is a place with an extraordinary environment, one filled with complex conversation, inter-disciplinary discovery, and constant engagement.

Terra Smith, MA student 2018-19

On Friday 11 December, join us online to learn about the programmes we offer, meet our staff and current students, discover the Institute’s collections and find out what it’s like to study at the Warburg Institute.

Find out more and register


Taught Programmes 

As we approached the end of the recruitment cycle for the 2020-21 academic year, we – like all Universities – were very unsure what the new academic year would look like in terms of teaching format and student numbers. We are delighted to be welcoming forty-one new students onto our taught programmes for this academic year. We are particularly pleased that, in line with our academic mission which is intrinsically linked to the movement of people, collections and ideas across national borders, we are welcoming nine international students and seven students from the EU.
This year’s intake is a significant increase on last year’s, and whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an impact, it is clear that the new degrees we launched last year are attractive to students, including part-time MA programmes, the PG Certificate, and the Masters in Research (MRes).
We are undertaking a blended learning approach for the autumn term to ensure that students who are unable to travel to London but who had a place on our programmes can start their degree as planned. It has also meant that we can maintain the high number of contact hours the degrees offer whilst ensuring we abide by the social distancing requirements to keep both staff and students safe. This has meant that our teaching, library and administrative staff have worked tirelessly over the summer to plan the delivery of teaching in a variety of formats and re-think our teaching and study spaces.

We are so pleased that this real team effort meant that we were able to hold our in-person classes as planned during the first weeks of the term. We are, of course, monitoring developments with the pandemic and whilst we can see the clear benefits for students in having in-person learning, we will only continue to offer it while it is safe to do so – for both students and staff.
This academic year has also brought some changes with regard to our academic staff. We are delighted to welcome to the Institute, Caspar Pearson who has taken over as the Convenor of the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, Matthew Coneys who has joined us as the Italian Language and Palaeography Tutor, and Elsa Court who has taken over as the French Language tutor.
We are sad to say goodbye to Caroline Oates who has taught on our MA Programmes for a number of years as the French Tutor. We wish Caroline all the best for the future.

Find out more about our postgraduate programmes


MPhil/PhD Programme

We have welcomed five new research students to the MPhil-PhD programme which includes both EU and international students. 
We have worked with the School of Advanced Study to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our continuing PhD students both financially and with regard to their well-being. It has been particularly gratifying to see so many of our PhD students using the Institute’s collections again for their research, and to be able to offer them quiet study spaces in the Library – all whilst maintaining the appropriate social distancing measures.
We know that this is unlikely to be like any year we have experienced at the Warburg Institute, but are confident that with the knowledge and commitment of our staff and the goodwill of the students (which they have already shown during the first weeks of the term) we will get through it and the student programmes will continue to flourish.    


When we closed the library doors on 19 March we didn’t imagine it would be almost six months, until 13 September to be precise, that they would open again to our students, staff and readers. The building remained shuttered to the outside world and the library shelves deserted for those six long months but the library itself carried on offering as many services as possible via the digital medium. The library’s staff worked hard during this time, maintaining the library’s email service, answering queries, renewing membership cards and providing advice on accessing our extensive and growing range of electronic resources. They also enhanced the library catalogue, correcting thousands of records and continued to develop the Warburg Commons repository, the Warburg Digital Library and Encore, the search engine which provides access to these and many more of our electronic resources.

As summer advanced and the lockdown eased slightly, it became possible to provide a click-and-collect service for our students to enable them to have access to the rich collections of the library which are not available electronically. This took a great deal of planning to ensure that it would operate efficiently and above all safely, including procedures for quarantining the books when returned. This was hugely appreciated by our students at a critical time during the research for their dissertations.

We finally reopened the library to our staff and students on 15 September and to external readers on 30 September. At present, the library is open from 11.00 to 15.00 Tuesday to Friday with procedures in place to ensure the safety of our staff and readers. This has involved weeks of preparation including implementing new signage, the installation of perspex screens on staff desks and the reorganisation of user spaces to ensure social distancing. The library remains closed from Saturday to Monday inclusive to allow 72 hours’ quarantine for the entire collection.

The library staff have continued to select new additions to our collections, paper and electronic, and began acquiring books and journals once more in June. Several months’ worth of these were processed in the first two weeks of September and these should be available to readers very shortly.

It has been an unusual six months to say the least but we are very glad to be back.

Dr Raphaële Mouren
Librarian of the Warburg Institute and Reader


Warburg’s original working materials for his legendary Bilderatlas Mnemosyne have returned to Germany in two very special exhibitions.

For the first time since 1929, all 63 panels of the Bilderatlas have been reconstructed using Warburg’s original materials for display at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), whilst at the Gemäldegalerie you can view some 50 original artworks in the collections of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin chosen by Warburg for inclusion in his encyclopedic atlas of images.

The exhibitions launched to great acclaim and at the official opening of the HKW exhibition, Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, Monika Grütters, gave a keynote speech on the importance of the Warburg Institute as a symbol of Anglo-German relations.

In the press

The exhibitions have received a number of articles in the press including amongst others:  

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne conference

A two-day conference was held on 25 and 26 September at HKW, which invited academics and curators to discuss the concepts that were developed by Aby warburg and how they continue to influence contemporary art history and visual studies. The Warburg Institute organised the second day of the exhibition conference, with Warburg staff and Bilderfahrzeuge Project associates well represented among the speakers.

Listen to some of the talks


Images “Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne – The Original.” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt | Photo: Silke Briel/HKW


The Warburg Renaissance project (like all capital projects across the University of London) remains on pause due to the financial uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The University has confirmed its commitment to the project, however, and given us a clear timeline for progress. The project reached the halfway stage of RIBA Stage 4 (Technical Design) at the beginning of April, and our architects—Haworth Tompkins—produced an inspiring mid-stage review. The project remains a top priority for the Institute; we have the full support of the University and in the words of Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Wendy Thomson:
The University is fully committed to the Warburg Renaissance project and as soon as the position becomes more clear, and resources permit, we will proceed as planned with the transformation of the Warburg Institute.”
In pursuit of the £14.5m total budget, we have so far raised £12.1m with a further £2.4m remaining. We have set a clear timeline of July 2021 to secure the full amount, which will enable us to resume work and progress through the remaining design work and on to RIBA Stage 5 (Construction). We are continuing to engage with major foundations in the UK and abroad to secure the remaining figure and we are confident that we will reach our target.
Alongside this campaign, we have founded the Friends of the Warburg to bring together the many people who value the Institute, admire its history, benefit from its resources and want to help to secure its future. Our initiative represents the first time the Institute has had a formal Friends organisation based at the Warburg and we very much hope you will be part of it. Joining up as a Friend to receive regular communications and invitations from the Institute is entirely free but you can also support the Institute with annual gifts and join one of our recognition circles (becoming a Muse!) with all donations going to the Warburg Charitable Trust in support of the Institute and the Warburg Renaissance.

Find out more and join Friends of the Warburg here



Director's Seminar: 'Astrology: Data
Science of the Anc
ient World?'

Tuesday 10 November: 5.30pm

Join us for a talk with Alexander Boxer who investigates astrology from a data science perspective, and seeks to nudge our understanding of astrology's historical role away from the metaphysical preoccupations of its modern practitioners. 

Find out more and book

A Material World 

A new events series hosted by the Warburg Institute which focuses on the reconstruction of life in the past through objects and materials, the people who made them and the people who used them. 

Find out more and book



Explore what else is on at the Warburg


Aby Warburg Bilderatlas Mnemosyne: Interview with Exhibition Assistant Lorenza Gay

"Until one actually handles all the photographs that make up the Bilderatlas it is hard to truly understand how many photos there are"

In this blog post, we chatted with Lorenza Gay, an exhibition assistant for the Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt to find out more about the process involved in the reconstruction of the panels.
Copyright © 2020 School of Advanced Study, University of London, All rights reserved.

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