Catherine Payling was, for 15 years, Director-Curator of the Keats-Shelley House in Rome, Italy. She managed the internationally important research library, one of the largest devoted to British and European Romanticism in Europe, and an extensive collection of paintings, sculpture and associated items both for the benefit of the general public and specialized researchers.
Whilst in Rome she discovered, authenticated and arranged publication (in the USA and Britain) of a Mary Shelley manuscript novella, which had been lost for almost 200 years. Working with museums, auction houses, scholars, and members of the public she became an acknowledged expert both in authentication of manuscript and other material, and in their conservation and preservation.
She curated exhibitions with the American Academy in Rome and published extensively on the Anglo-American communities in Italy between 1790 and the present day.
In 2003 she was honored by HRH Prince Charles with the MBE for her service to Anglo-Italian relations.
Prior to her time in Rome she was a curator in the printed books and manuscripts department at the National Maritime Museum in London, and also worked at the Royal Opera House.
She graduated from Oxford University with undergraduate and Masters degrees in English literature and is married to Duncan Wu, Raymond Wagner Professor of Literary Studies at Georgetown University.
She and her husband are lifelong collectors of fine and decorative arts.