Final Report – Advanced Topics in Digital Art History: 3D (Geo)Spatial Networks
Since June, conversations within Firenze Scomparsa have contributed to setting up the new project ‘Immersive Renaissance’, funded by the Getty Foundation Digital Initiative. The project, led by the University of Exeter, is securing a growing number of collaborations; initially a research initiative between Exeter, the University of Cambridge and the Decima team at the University of Toronto, it obtained the significant contribution of academic and museum institutions, including the PIN – Polo Prato and the Museo degli Innocenti in Italy, and the National Gallery and Fitzwilliam Museum in the United Kingdom.
‘Immersive Renaissance’ has considerably benefitted from the participation of the Firenze Scomparsa team to the workshop. We had the chance to explore the potential of different digital tools for the visualization and spatial analysis of historical data (which are the core of the project) and identify long-term goals. Convening with Decima reinforced our collaboration already underway, shaped our problem solving towards interdisciplinary research questions and defined shared objectives. Being exposed to other teams’ work has also helped us reflect on the importance of interoperability and scalability of digital outputs to make our research open to future exchanges and cross-institutional collaborations. In our current work, our aim for interoperability will reflect in the data format, and their associated metadata, that will populate an open-access GIS-database, geo-located 3D models, a locative mobile app that uses low-resolution models for Augmented Reality experiences, and a platform where all the contents are enriched with standardized vocabularies and ontologies.
Other valuable takeaways include the foregrounding of DAH professional credit, through discussing with the Duke team methodologies, experiences, best practices, dissemination platforms, and scholarly opportunities. Our improved knowledge in the field helped us lobby for academic recognition within our universities, which have been expanding their Digital Humanities departments over the past year. In Cambridge, we contributed in setting up a training workshop that was one of the main initiatives of the new Cambridge Digital Humanities community, and the inaugural conference for the newly-established Centre for Visual Culture has ‘reconstruction’ as its theme and features the presentation of ‘Immersive Renaissance’.
Preliminary results for the last-5-month work are about to be launched. Thanks to a collaboration with app developers at a Bristol firm called Calvium and AR specialists from the studio ZubVR we are close to the release of the three-dimensional reconstruction of the lost fourteenth-century Florentine church of San Pier Maggiore, built at full scale as a augmented reality experience that can be accessed on its original site in Florence and at the National Gallery of London. In Florence, the model unfolds around the user after they are invited to look for the remains of the church in its original site, and told the story of the sposalizio, the allegorical marriage involving the incoming bishop of Florence and the abbess of San Pier Maggiore. At the National Gallery, the augmented reality (AR) experience is accessed through image-recognition before Jacopo di Cione’s magnificent 1371 high altarpiece, now one of the centerpieces of the new Sainsbury Wing hang. The AR feature allows superimposing the historic church onto the layout of Gallery 60 to reconstruct the original viewing context for the work of art. We performed the final tests last week, and more information and a promotional video for the app, that will be officially presented at the National Gallery on November 7th, can be found here: https://hiddenflorence.org/hf-3d/.
Inputs from the workshop are also informing current individual projects: while Chiara carries out art historical research for ‘Immersive Renaissance’ full-time, Cristina works as a curator of visitor experience design for the European project VISTA-AR, and Nicola is working on the development of a knowledge base system, structuring data created in the Murate project based on a domain ontology. We are most grateful to the Wired! Lab team for mentoring us over two years of exciting research and professional growth and we will continue to treasure the workshop’s intellectual energy and to push their lessons forward.
Nicola Amico Chiara Capulli Cristina Mosconi