Rock, Paper, Chisel: The Materiality and Context of Medieval Art

Spring 2015

ARTHIST 290-03 | MEDREN 290-1-01 | VMS 290S-01

Alexandra Dodson

TuTh 11:45am-1:00pm | Nasher 119

Medieval artworks were not made for museums. They were created as components of architectural complexes, or as equally functional objects with didactic, narrative, or other practical purposes. We will explore the historical contexts of works of medieval art, seeking to understand these works as they were meant to be seen and used. We will focus on the art of Western Europe from approximately 300-1400 AD with some consideration of that of the Middle East. Discussion of be the “lives” of the artworks we study, including illuminated manuscripts, gothic cathedrals, tombs, stained glass, and altarpieces, along with the stones and pigments that comprise them, and the tools that made them.

Roman Frontiers

Fall 2013


Tolly Boatwright

This advanced graduate seminar explores life along the geographical peripheries of the Roman Empire, as well as the very concepts of Roman frontiers. We turn to archaeological, epigraphic, literary, numismatic, papyrological, and whatever other evidence we can find. Our goal is not simply to investigate diverse specific communities, cultures, or archaeological phenomena; we will also read and evaluate secondary scholarship, some using more theoretical approaches. This comparative, analytical work should enable us to see Roman data and concepts with fresh eyes.

Splendor of the City

Fall 2013


Kristin Lanzoni

Iara Dundas, TA

Residents of Venice, both individually and collectively, fashioned an image of the city as unprecedented and exceptional, accomplishing this in great part through art and architecture. Venice was indeed unique— a city built on water after all— and sponsors commissioned monuments as a way to promote the city as unparalleled in beauty, splendor, and glory. Students will use digital tools, such as Omeka/Neatline, to map artistic connections across the urban landscape of Venice and its territories during Renaissance. By considering a range of artistic patronage, a wide spectrum of art commissions, and a number of the most famous artists, this course will offer a broad picture of this thriving period of Venetian art and society.

Splendor of Renaissance Venice

Fall 2017

ARTHIST 290 | MEDREN 390-01 | ITALIAN 390-02 | VMS 290-01

Kristin Huffman Lanzoni

TTh 11:45am-1:00pm | Smith Warehouse, Bay 10, A266

Residents of Venice, both individually and collectively, fashioned an image of the city as unprecedented and exceptional, accomplishing this in great part through art and architecture.  Venice was indeed unique— a city built on water— and sponsors commissioned monuments as a way to promote the city as unparalleled in beauty, splendor, and glory. The thriving metropolis and the possibility for work attracted some of the most important artists practicing in the Renaissance, such as Titian and Jacopo Sansovino. By considering a range of artistic patrons and their art commissions and a number of the most famous artists, this course will offer a broad picture of Renaissance Venice, its art, and society. A Wired! class, the semester-research project will include a digital visualization.

Image Credit: Vittore Carpaccio, Meeting of the Betrothed from the Cycle of the Life of St. Ursula, 1490-96. Tempera on canvas. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice.

Virtual Form & Space

Spring 2014


Nicola Lercari

M 3:05-5:35 pm, Lab 6:15-7:30 pm Social Science 229

Using avatar-based simulation, 3D modeling and interaction design techniques, this studio course explores new hybrid forms of digital arts and communication specifically related to virtual worlds and the reconstruction of the unique urban landscape of Early Modern Venice.

Topics in Digital History & Humanities: NC Jukebox

Fall 2015

ISI 317S | HIST 317S | MUS 317S

Victoria Szabo and Trudi Abel

TH 10:05am-12:35pm | Rubenstein Library

Digital History and Digital Humanities in theory and practice. Students plan, research and develop new technology projects which present archival material and historical interpretations to scholars and the general public through research papers, websites, and museum exhibits. The course meets weekly to discuss readings in American history, southern history, and digital history/humanities. Students explore archival material in the Rubinstein Library, learn how to use digital tools for humanities projects, develop principles of effective digital project management, create cross-disciplinary collaborations and learn about the ethics for creating research projects in the humanities.

This project is focused on transforming an inaccessible audio archive of historic North Carolina folk music into a vital, publicly accessible digital archive and museum exhibition. Nearly 97 years ago and into the 1930s, Frank C. Brown, a Duke scholar, began recording North Carolina folk music and archiving it for posterity. Most of those recordings are still housed on glass disks in Rubenstein Library, but we already have about 400 songs for which we have digitized audio and handwritten metadata with which we can work on the initial version of what we are calling the proof-of-concept NC Jukebox project.

For our project we envision converting this music to playable audio forms and making it accessible to the public in a variety of value-added, contextualizing digital and installation media exhibitions. We also want to prototype a database system to begin organizing and sharing the larger set of materials when they have been digitized later.

This course is part of the Bass Connections pathway Information, Society & Culture.

Virtual Museums: Theories and Methods of 21st Century Museums

Fall 2015


Maurizio Forte

The future of museum is on the immateriality, affordances, interactions, processes, artificial organisms, cyber-spaces. After an era of museography, of inorganic taxonomic museums, the short life of virtual museums, the future will be on cyber-museums: borderless, distributed, embodied and able to reproduce new knowledge in different forms, layout and rhizomes. The Internet of Things, augmented reality technologies, new data analyses of artifacts, virtual reality systems, body sensors and simulations associated to new forms of engagement are going to transform missions, roles, goals and communication of museums and collections. The transformation of museums in more dynamic, flexible and open institutions is a challenge of this century and, more importantly, this trend generates new job positions and different professional profiles at the level of cultural resource management, museum communication and technological research. The core of the course will be in digital lab sessions which will be focused on the virtual reconstruction on lost heritage and, more specifically, on museums and sites destroyed and damaged by ISIS and other conflicts in Iraq and in the Middle East such as Hatra, Nineveh, Nimrud, Baghdad.

Visualizing Cultures

Fall 2017

VMS 490S | DOCST 490S | AMES 490S

Ellen Sebring

Th 1:25-3:55pm | Smith Warehouse, Bay 9, A290

What is image-based storytelling? How can history be done through images? What are design guidelines for digital visual narratives? Cartoons, photographs, prints, illustrated news, ads, postcards. Modern Asia & the world in digital image-driven history. Work in a flipped classroom in teams. Develop image-based presentations from historical sources. Guided by media theorist & designer of MIT Visualizing Cultures. | sebring[at]mit[dot]edu.


Visualizing Venetian Art

Spring 2015

VMS 551LS-001 | ARTHIST 551LS-001 | ISIS 551LS-001

Kristin Lanzoni

M 1:25-4:05pm | The Wired! Lab (Smith, Bay 11, A233)

This seminar focuses on the art and architecture of Early Modern Venice. Much of the city changed over time, most notably with Napoleon’s entry into the city in 1789. Students will use the vast printed and visual resources related to history of Venice in order to develop digital projects that permit reconstructions of knowledge about its art and architecture, demolished structures, and altered spaces. These may include, but will not be limited to the annotation of historical maps and views of Venice; visualizations of different types and forms of movement into and out of the city and its empire over time and space; interactive museum exhibitions; and 3-D reconstructions of lost monuments of historical importance to the urban fabric. Student projects have the potential to contribute to ongoing Visualizing Venice research initiatives.​


Spring 2009

Caroline Bruzelius, Sheila Dillon, Mark Olson

This seminar inaugurated the Wired Project. In the course, we explored how the results of research in the humanities can be expressed using new visual technologies. We considered how to record and communicate complex sets of visual and physical data from historical buildings and archaeological sites, and develop new methods of interpretation and representation. Students were introduced to techniques for the presentation of visual material through a series of interpretive and reconstructive technologies, with an emphasis on clarity of representation and effective visual design. We utilized two test cases as study materials: the archaeological site of Aphrodisias in Turkey (Dillon), which has produced extensive sculptural and architectural remains, and two Franciscan sites in the area of Naples (Bruzelius).