Decoding Artifacts

Jessica Pissini

Fall 2015

MA in Digital Art History student Jessica Pissini completed this project as part of her master’s thesis. Below is her explanation of her work:

The Decoding Artifacts project is researching medieval sculpture in new ways by studying stone carving tools and marks, the relationship of sound to the sculptor’s technique, and the importance of drawings and their connections to geometry. In addition, the project’s team is exploring ways to use digital tools and applications for public outreach and education within the Nasher Museum of Art. This website and augmented reality museum app presents 3D models, educational videos, and images as instruments of learning about stone carving and the artifact’s history. It encourages visitors to interact with the museum objects while exploring the virtual information and visualizations.

Access the website.

Find out more about Jessica’s experience in the MA program.

Alife Arch App

Mark OlsonEd Triplett


This wonderful arch consists of intertwined men and animals combined in a frightening vision of suffering in Hell or Purgatory.  The arch is from the Cathedral of Alife, an ancient Roman city near Naples, Italy, and is a remarkable example of Italian Romanesque sculpture.  The analysis of the marble of the individual pieces  indicates that they were carved from Roman materials originally from quarries in Italy, Turkey, and the Greek islands. Fragments of ancient sculpture can be seen on the reverse side of the medieval carving.

A team of Duke students is developing an interactive visualization to engage museum visitors with the history and meaning of this remarkable work of art.


Caroline Bruzelius

Jessica Chen

Marina Frattaroli

Lucas Giles

Adair Jones

Lucian Li

Gabriella Salvatore


Wired! The Lives of Things


The Alife Arch

The Lives of Things

Augmenting Urban Experiences

Victoria Szabo

Fall 2014 - present

This project focuses on the process of digital city-making itself, drawing upon technology studies and media theory as well as historical documents, monuments, architecture, and other cultural artifacts. Researchers in this team are focused on the development of digital and mixed reality experiences as tools for discovery and research presentation. We focus on annotated digital maps, 3D modeling, augmented reality overlays, audio and video supplements, procedural narrations, data visualizations and network flow diagrams in order to understand both the past of a city and its presence and effects in contemporary experiences of it. With projects running in Durham, Venice, and Bremen, and with a mobile app framework under development of on-site exploration experiences, the project goals are both to create multimodal research products that take advantage of the affordances of both analog and digital media forms as well as to develop a guidelines for an emergence genre for both research presentation and transformative, affective experience in real time and space.


Duke/Durham Ghosts

Gothic Cathedrals: The Cathedral of Saint Susanne

Fall 2016

Students in ARTHIST 225 Gothic Cathedrals spend the semester designing architectural plans for plausible medieval European cathedrals. They develop an historical and religious narrative, budget, iconography, and elevations, sections, and floor plans. Here is one example of such a project.


Protected: Historical GIS StoryMaps

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Book of Fortresses

Ed Triplett


The aim of this project is to spatially reconstruct an exceptional architectural source from early modern Portugal called the “Livro das Fortalezas” (Book of Fortresses). This bound volume was created by a Portuguese squire named Duarte de Armas in 1510. It includes a folio of perspective drawings from two vantage-points of over 50 castles on the border between the kingdoms of Portugal and Spain and a second folio of measured plans for each site. With the assistance of student researchers, the book will be reconstructed as a data-rich, three-dimensional map. Sub-projects will include 3D models of the fortresses based on Duarte de Armas’ plans and drawings, a database identifying architectural features and scenes from daily life in the drawings, and GIS layers designed to study how the castles formed a fortified chain on the border with Spain. Future plans include a photogrammetric analysis of the sites in order to determine with greater precision where Duarte de Armas had to be standing when he drew the perspectival drawings, how accurate he was in terms of perspective, scale and detail, and how these castles and towns have changed since 1510.


Cameron Esses

Hillman Han

Stone Mathers

Mapping Italian Baroque Art & Architecture

Kristin Huffman LanzoniAmanda LazarusHannah Jacobs

Fall 2016

Students in ARTHIST 256 Italian Baroque Art used Omeka and Neatline to create digital archives and exhibitions that use annotated historical maps, timelines, and multimedia to construct visual narratives about significant artists, patrons, and sites created in Italy during the seventeenth century. Their projects can be viewed at

Building Duke

The Architectural History of Duke Campus from 1924 to the Present (2018-2019)

Sara Galletti

2018-present | Project Website
Interested in joining the team? Stop by the Bass Connections Projects Fair on Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 between 2:30-5:30PM, attend the Bass Connections Information Session on February 9th, and submit an application by February 16th, 2018, at 5:00PM. Building Duke is a new three-year initiative that will be implemented in three phases: data collection and organizing (first year); data analysis and interpretation (second year); data output (third year). It will explore the conception, design and construction of the Duke University campus as well as its changes and expansions.The first phase of the project is supported through a Bass Connections Project Grant. Principal aims are to offer an historical narrative of the physical environment that the Duke community inhabits and to explore the desires and visions that have materialized in the making of the campus. This project is especially relevant at a cultural and political moment when physical space and its historical connotations are at the center of a heated public debate. The three-year initiative will culminate in a relational database of textual and visual archival material on the architectural history of Duke campus; an interactive digital 3D model of campus developments since the 1920s; a series of multimedia thematic narratives on history of the campus; and a series of augmented reality tours.


Elizabeth Baltes

John H. Edinger

Valerie Gillispie

Hannah L. Jacobs

Mark J.V. Olson

Victoria Szabo

John Taormina

Edward Triplett


Building Duke


Digital Durham

Statues Speak

News & Events

Building Duke Becomes Bass Connections Project Team

Modeling Medieval European Castles

Edward Triplett

Fall 2016

Students in ARTHIST 190S Medieval Castles of Europe worked in Autodesk 3D Studio Max to create counterfactual models of medieval castles drawing on their knowledge of medieval architecture, politics, and geography. Their projects have been made available through Sketchfab:


Castelo de Setúbal

Castello de Maggiore

Castillo de Cañaveral

Castillo de Humilladero

The Crystal Palace

Victoria Szabo

This project seeks to consider the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a place constructed in a highly determined space located in the physical and metaphorical heart of British colonial power. Famous both for the building itself, Paxton’s Crystal Palace, and the diverse objects and people from around the world that it contained, the Exhibition is nonetheless difficult to study as a spatial phenomenon due to its sheer complexity and scope. The diverse array of artworks, artifacts, machines, inventions, craft objects and human tableaux that were shown are richly documented in planning documents, photos, paintings, catalogs, engravings, new stories, travel narratives, and imaginative literature; the building itself is a favorite of architectural historians and engineers, who have reconstructed it in 3D numerous times. This project attempts to brings together those approaches through an annotated virtual reconstruction of the Crystal Palace, to be populated by both the objects it contained, and the “users” who traversed it, in order to ask questions about the rhetoric of the place itself as a site of cultural self-representation and experience. Because no one technology adequately addresses this goal, our approaches brings together GIS and Google Earth assisted thematic maps and views of the content, contributor networks, and visitors to the Exhibition, as well as populated 3D immersive models to be experienced through the DiVE, virtual worlds and game environments. Underlying all of these will be a common database substrate of annotation and documentation, ideally accessible from any “view” – whether a website, 3D model, map, or immersive game-space.


Raquel Salvatella de Prada

The Visualization Technology Group

The Virtual Realities FOCUS