Getty Foundation announces grants to support digital mapping of important cultural heritage sites

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Getty Foundation announces grants to support digital mapping of important cultural heritage sites
Example of an embedded map in a user interface mockup for extracting geospatial information from a photograph by Georges Leuzinger (1813-1892), Largo do Paço and Chafariz do Mestre Valentim, c. 1865, as part of imagineRio, which is supported by the Getty Foundation through its Digital Art History initiative. Image courtesy Humanities Research Center / Instituto Moreira Salles.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Getty Foundation announced today four grants that will support a growing area of art historical research – the use of geospatial and digital mapping tools to document and analyze cultural sites around the world. As part of its Digital Art History initiative, the Foundation will support projects that are currently exploring the ancient sites of Pompeii in Italy and Çatalhöyük in Turkey, the social and urban evolution of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the flourishing years of Florence during the Italian Renaissance. The grants also represent a new approach that moves digital art history practice away from standalone solutions and toward shared learning opportunities.

“Technology is truly an area that benefits from collaboration, so we’ve brought this approach to our grantmaking,” says Joan Weinstein, acting director of the Getty Foundation. "Funding scholars who work together in a common area, in this case digital mapping, can help them learn from one another and push the whole field forward."

Each of the four projects will create or expand a GIS (Geographic Information System) platform to manage geographic, cultural, and archival data. Several of the projects are also seeking to incorporate digital reconstructions, in the form of three-dimensional models and augmented reality, into their GIS platforms. Once created, these models will provide an enhanced understanding of the historical fabric of spaces, structures and artworks.

The project teams have already demonstrated success in initial stages, with the Foundation providing the resources now needed to take their work to the next level. In the coming years the four project teams will come together for Getty-led convenings that will offer an opportunity for collaboration and shared learning, the first of which will be held in May 2019.

Below are descriptions of each project:

Revealing the Art and Architecture of Pompeii
Grant awarded to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for the digital mapping project Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project
Grant amount: $245,000

The University of Massachusetts Amherst, in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, will complete a three-year project titled the Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project (PALP), a resource designed to contextualize detailed descriptions of Pompeii’s artwork within its well-documented archaeological landscape. Drawing upon the existing Pompeii Bibliography and Mapping Project, PALP will enable users to locate artworks geographically and make complex connections between them. Too often, Roman artworks are only known from (and studied as) singular objects, cherry-picked and divorced from their immediate surroundings. The project will allow researchers to ask the complex and imaginative questions that are essential in speculative research, from something as simple as searching for the location of every Pompeiian visual representation of the mythological figure of Hercules, to a complex query refining these representations by region, style, and architectural setting. Users will be able to view the artworks on a map, search the inventory by keyword, and explore different categories of spatial or iconographic relationships.

Exploring the Rise of Civilization in Turkey
Grant awarded to Stanford University for the digital mapping project Living Archive of Çatalhöyük
Grant amount: $220,000

For the past 25 years, Stanford University has led archeological excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Çatalhöyük in Turkey, a large Neolithic settlement that flourished around 7000 BC. These excavations have revealed new information about the origins of human settlements, the rise of civilization, and the emergence of religion and early object-making, including wall paintings, sculpture, and figural ceramics. This data collected over two decades will now be made available through the Living Archive of Çatalhöyük (LAC), a GIS web application designed to serve as a database for archeologists, art historians, and the general public to explore the site and its associated artifacts. The web application source code will also be made available as open access software.

Photography and Topography in Rio de Janeiro
Grant awarded to Rice University for the digital mapping project imagineRio
Grant amount: $216,000

The Humanities Research Center (HRC) at Rice University will collaborate with the Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS) in Rio de Janeiro on a two-year project to digitally integrate historical photography and cartography into imagineRio, a platform that charts changes in the city’s landscape and topography over time. The project will digitize 4,000 photographic views of Rio de Janeiro from the 19th and 20th centuries in the IMS collection and incorporate them into the existing model, greatly expanding the number and variety of geo-located visual representations of Rio accessible to researchers. The project contributes to the understanding of the evolution of Rio de Janeiro and its built environment, and by extension other cities, through the integration of their photographic and cartographic heritage. The photographs will be digitized in an open-source repository, and will include street views, panoramas, stereograms, and natural landscapes captured by photographers Georges Leuzinger, Marc Ferrez, Revert Henry Klumb, Rodrigues and Co., and Guilherme Santos, among others. Using innovative technologies such as monoplotting, photographs can be geo-referenced down to the level of individual pixels. The project will also develop new models to generate a 3D version of imagineRio from archival data and digitized historical photographs.

Mapping the Renaissance in Florence
Grant awarded to the University of Exeter for the digital mapping project Immersive Renaissance
Grant amount: $230,000

The University of Exeter’s two-year project will integrate elements of three existing platforms to construct a layered and interactive view of the art and architecture of Renaissance Florence: a project that provides access to historical census data through a GIS platform based on the 1584 Buonsignori map of Florence; a 3D modelling project; and a GPS-enabled mobile application. This new resource will open up interpretive possibilities for the multitude of Florentine artworks dispersed in museum and gallery collections worldwide, by representing the artworks in their digitally reconstructed original settings. The platform will highlight important buildings that have been demolished or altered and recreate lost spatial and architectural environments for displaced artworks. A “time-slide” feature will also display the urban landscape at different moments in time. Additionally, a mobile augmented reality app with GPS capability will allow users to examine these reconstructions in situ and permit researchers to annotate the platform’s 3D models while exploring contemporary Florence on foot.

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