Anna Ottani Cavina (1939) is an emeritus professor of Modern Art History at Bologna University and honorary president of the Federico Zeri Foundation which she directed from 2001 to 2014. As director she promoted and launched the project to catalogue the extraordinary collection left by Zeri to the University of Bologna.

In 2020 Anna Ottani Cavina donated to the Foundation her own photo archive of over 18,000 photographs, supplemented by some 8,000 related materials (editorial extracts, handwritten memoranda, catalogue files, correspondence with art historians, antiquarians and collectors).
This legacy enormously enriches the Foundation resources, focusing as it does on geographical and research areas that did not figure so prominently in the Federico Zeri photo archive.

Assembled over a time range from 1959 to 2020, the archive reflects research topics central to the scholar’s academic career: the first half of the Seventeenth century (2,109 photographs), with sections on  Caravaggio School Painters and the Carraccis;  Neoclassical decoration and northern painters in Italy (7,235 photographs), largely comprised of documentation gathered during twenty years or more of research into Felice Giani (1758-1823); Landscape Painting in Italy (1,240 photographs), extending to late 18th-century plein-air painters (Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Thomas Jones, Louis Gauffier).

In addition there are sections arranged by author, depicting Italian and non-Italian artists from the 15th to the20th century, a section of Slides used by Anna Ottani Cavina during university courses, seminars and lectures.

During 2023 she has also added a small group devoted to still life paintings and prints photographed by the Bolognese studio of Villani as part of a 1976 photo campaign at the Faenza Municipal Art Gallery(photos of paintings, drawings of furniture and ornamentation, and etchings).

Many of the photographs bear annotations on the back, complete with captions and printing instructions where they were intended for publications. In many cases they were commissioned directly from Italian or foreign photographic studios, though they also came from museum archives, superintendents’ offices, antiquarians and collectors. The provenance of Anna Ottani Cavina’s photo collection testifies to her penchant for wide-ranging documentation.

As of 2021, her photo archive has been the centrepiece in a cataloguing and enhancement project designed to swell the data base of the Zeri Foundation.
The project A territorial archive. Emilian art in the photo archive of Anna Ottani Cavina has involved cataloguing over 3,600 photos devoted to Felice Giani and neoclassical decoration in Emilia and Romagna, and to the Carraccis in Bologna, which are already viewable in the online catalogue. 
Work is also in progress on cataloguing the section of 1,574 photos depicting the Caravaggio School of Painters, benefiting from a generous contribution by Emanuela and Silvano Merlatti.