We are thrilled to announce that Giuseppe Albano, the Curator of Keats-Shelley House, has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to UK-Italian relations. Giuseppe took up the post in November 2011, succeeding Catherine Payling, also MBE, who had been the Keats-Shelley Curator for 14 years.
'It was a lovely surprise,' Giuseppe says. 'It's always an honour to be able to help preserve and promote the extraordinary legacies of Keats and Shelley in Italy, and I felt particularly touched on this occasion.'
Such recognition is especially poignant in Giuseppe’s case given his own Scottish-Italian heritage: his father came from Basilicata in southern Italy; his mother is Glaswegian. ‘People are always surprised to find an Italian Scotsman, but we are not a rare breed,’ Giuseppe told The Herald newspaper in 2013. ‘My father came over because he loved Scotland, as many southern Italians do.’
Settling in Dundee, Signor Albano ran a hotel for many years, before opening the first of his own restaurants. These afforded a teenage Giuseppe his first work experience, waiting tables. ‘I came home from school and my father threw me a bow tie,’ he said in the same 2013 interview.
Giuseppe studied literature at Edinburgh University, before undertaking postgraduate work, at York and then Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where he wrote his doctoral thesis on Victorian pastoral poetry. Instead of pursuing a career in academia, Giuseppe gained experience in various arts institutions, including the British Museum, Wallace Collection and the Hawthornden International Writers’ Retreat, where he was librarian and archivist.
He became Curator of Keats-Shelley House on 28th November 2011, and was immediately faced with supervising the final stages of the Centenary Development project, which included extensive renovations to both the interior and exterior of the museum.
Over the following seven years, Giuseppe has overseen the modernisation of the exhibition space which enabled the museum for the first time in its history to secure loans from major international institution, such as the Fitzwilliam Museum, Bodleian Libraries, and National Library of Scotland.
As well as expanding the House's programme of temporary exhibitions, Giuseppe has overseen the acquisition of several key acquisitions to its collection, including a precious Keats letter which had been in private collections since 1820 and which became the most expensive Keats autograph letter ever sold. The new books in the library have been augmented by new books in the shop - including several poetry anthologies edited by Duncan Wu, and featuring striking essays by among others Julian Sands and Bob Geldof. All of these publications raise valuable funds for the House.
Improvements to the visitor experience included the creation of a cinema room and the restoration of the outside terrace. This has not only become a place for the public to relax after a tour of the House, but a space to host special events. Giuseppe has developed an enviable programme of live performance, conferences and literary events, including readings by Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Fiona Sampson, Jackie Kay and Keats-Shelley House regular, Julian Sands (pictured with Giuseppe, Keats-Shelley House staff and fellow actor, John Malkovich).
This rich cultural fusion of music, theatre, art and of course poetry has been carefully curated to appeal to audiences young and old, devotees of the English Romantics and people discovering them for the first time, visitors who live in Rome and tourists just passing through. One reason that visitor numbers to the Keats-Shelley House have increased in recent years is Giuseppe's desire to foster close links with local communities in Rome - including schools and refugee centres, not to mention hosting more Italian and bi-lingual events.
'I've always felt that the House shouldn't be merely an English curiosity, but a place where Anglo-Italian cultural collaboration is encouraged to thrive,' he says.
In other words, Giuseppe's MBE is rich reward for seven years of hard work, judicious innovation and passion for the writers celebrated by the Keats-Shelley House. It also recognises a career that began by waiting tables in Dundee and has flourished in Rome. We’ll leave the last word to Giuseppe.
‘I’m glad I have that family business grounding because it’s useful to have that pride,’ he said in 2013. ‘I hope I have brought the same pride to looking after the museum in Rome.’