Firenze Scomparsa – Update

The collaborative project ‘Firenze Scomparsa’ aims to develop a framework for geo-locative visualization of Florentine historic buildings and artworks. A digital platform will integrate reconstructed historical settings within a geo-located smartphone app, so that the 3D-visualizations can be experienced in their original site; in their ‘virtually reinstated’ context within museum galleries; and remotely, via a database with primary material underpinning our work.

Photogrammetric reconstruction of the modern urban fabric containing the hypothetical reconstruction of the church of San Pier Maggiore, Florence. From the film: ‘Reconstructing the lost church of San Pier Maggiore’.

Following productive discussions at the ‘Advanced Topics in Digital Art History’ workshop, over the past months we have been focusing on how to best integrate different data structures in order to efficiently collaborate. Our team recently joined the discussion hosted by the Principal Investigators of the DECIMA project at the ‘Florentia Illustrata’ workshop, held at Villa I Tatti – The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies together with other Florence-based digital projects. Aiming to advance long-term collaboration between the involved parties, we explored potential ways to share technological infrastructures, data, and methods through the Linked Open Data principles and the use of ontologies.

As we continue developing our 3D model for San Pier Maggiore, we discussed the potential of organizing all the digital resources and associated metadata in a semantically structured database, complying with ontological modeling and with FAIR principles, to ensure maximum transparency, reproducibility, and reusability. In particular, we are planning to use CIDOC CRM and its extensions (CRMba) as an intellectual guide to model our data. This allows us to connect the architectural elements, paintings, and altars to the available texts, maps, sections, and drawings, thus enabling us to verify the reliability of our 3D reconstruction. Indeed, this approach was successfully applied in various digital heritage integrating initiatives, like the European projects ARIADNE and PARTHENOS. Both the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS) stressed that open-source applications for heritage recording, the implementation of the CIDOC-CRM framework for their integration with heritage documentation activities, and the use of controlled vocabularies ensure validity and consistency to the inventory data.

Jacopo di Cione’s high altarpiece for the church of San Pier Maggiore in context.

While ongoing archival research in Florence continues to be essential to understanding the processes of addition and accretion for historic buildings, regular on-site surveys allow us to verify the accuracy of our digital reconstructions. In return, the 3D models become a powerful research tool that helps us to counterproof any speculations on the altered urban fabric. We are planning to undertake a laser scanning operation in Florence to further integrate and minimize the errors of previous photogrammetric meshes. Finally, as we refine the links between the scholarly apparatus and the geo-referenced visualization, we keep pursuing the potential of location-based user experience for public-facing locative interpretation.