Team Members Participating:
Eric Pecile
PhD Candidate, History
University of Toronto, Canada

Hana Suckstorff
PhD Candidate, History
University of Toronto, Canada

Project Summary:
Begun in 2010, DECIMA digitally represents the cultural, economic, architectural, and sensory world of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Florence. Funded by several scholarly institutions and agencies, it functions as a repository of social-historical data on the city’s 10,000 households, and as online platform linking distinct digital projects to advance cross-disciplinary and collaborative research by a range of international partners. Our current project is to produce a 4D visualization of Florence, based on a contemporary axonometric projection, and conveying sounds, smells, and motions within the sixteenth century city.

DECIMA has assembled data from censuses of 1551, 1561, and geo-referenced these to a high-resolution copy of Stefano Buonsignori’s 1584 aerial view of Florence. DECIMA research assistants, led by Nicholas Terpstra (University of Toronto) and Colin Rose (Brock University), retraced the census takers’ steps and transcribed this information into a database in FileMakerPro. These entries have been mapped in ArcGIS to create a dynamic platform for tracking shifting social geography and exploring intersections of built and social environments in the early modern period; users can access the data for free through ArcGIS Online. DECIMA enables scholars to study how Florence’s 60,000 residents navigated the city’s streets, churches, brothels, and civic institutions over an 80-year span of extraordinary activity.

DECIMA is a tool for interdisciplinary teaching and collaboration. Our current collaborators include Fabrizio Nevola (Exeter), Niall Atkinson (Chicago), and Donal Cooper (Cambridge); we work with them to recreate urban dynamics around motion, space, sound, and dislocation. Undergraduates at various universities have used DECIMA to research Florence’s processional routes, street songs, piazza life, infrastructure, and social and kin networks. Researchers at the University of Toronto have used it to study the sonic dynamics around women’s enclosures, plague epidemiology, Jewish residential patterns, and property investments of major families and institutions.

Our current project is to produce a 4D visualization of the city incorporating time, movement, and sensory experience. We have acquired CyberCity’s 3D visualization of modern Florence, and Eric Pecile is eliminating post-1632 elements, while Hana Suckstorff reconstructs early modern buildings in SketchUp. We will integrate this visual data with information about the city’s soundscape. Altogether, these developments will marry the demographic portrait provided by the census data, including living patterns and distributions of wealth and power, with the lived, everyday experience of sixteenth-century Florence. We aim to integrate examples of human movement and the sensory landscape into a material interpretation of urban infrastructure in order to explore how early moderns lived and interacted in the built environments of their cities.

External Link(s) and Resources:


DECIMA Book: Mapping Space, Sense and Movement in Florence: Historical GIS and the Early Modern City

Terpstra, Nicholas, and Colin Rose. “DECIMA: The Digitally Encoded Census Information and Mapping Archive, and the Project for a Geo-Spatial and Sensory Digital Map of Renaissance Florence.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies 13, no. 4 (2013): 156–60.

Reviews of DECIMA and DECIMA Research
Colson, Justin. “Review of Nicholas Terpstra and Colin Rose (Eds.), Mapping Space, Sense, and Movement in Florence: Historical GIS and the Early Modern City. Abingdon: Routledge, 2016” Urban History 44, no. 02 (May 2017): 345–47.

Presentation Slides (PDF)