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Renaissance Florence Comes Alive in New Exhibit at W&L
'Florence As It Was,' an interactive digital humanities project, will be on view in W&L's Staniar Gallery from Feb. 13 through March 25.

Lexington, VA (Jan. 31, 2024) - Washington and Lee University’s Staniar Gallery is pleased to present “Florence As It Was: The Digital Reconstruction of a Renaissance City,” on view in the Lenfest Center for the Arts from Feb. 13 through March 25, with a lecture and reception slated for Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m.

The exhibition and opening reception events are free and open to the public.

“Florence As It Was” is a digital humanities project that reconstructs the city of Florence, Italy as it appeared at the end of the 15th century and is produced by W&L faculty members George Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts; David Pfaff, senior academic technologist and director of the IQ Center; and Mackenzie Brooks, associate professor and digital humanities librarian. The project can be accessed online at https://florenceasitwas.wlu.edu.

Bent, Pfaff and Brooks began the project in 2016, and with the assistance of more than 20 W&L students over the years, they have created point cloud models of more than two dozen architectural monuments in the city, using technologies that have not yet been embraced widely by cultural studies specialists, including geospatial referencing systems, LiDAR scanners, software programs to create navigable point clouds, and photogrammetry tools to produce 3D models of artwork.

“Nowhere else — outside of the city of Florence itself — can we experience the merging of architectural and artistic masterpieces of the early Italian Renaissance with such precision,” Bent said. “Presented here as an ensemble of cutting-edge computer-generated products, the spaces and images on view in this exhibition represent a dual exploration of both art history and digital design processes.”

An interactive exhibition, “Florence As It Was” merges innovative STEM techniques with traditional art historical inquiry to tell the story of 15th-century Florence, describe the technologies and processes involved in the reproduction of Florentine landmarks, and provide examples of computer-generated 3D models that may be explored by visitors to the exhibition.

The project is also an important contribution to historical preservation, creating publicly accessible models of significant Florentine sites that can endure long after the monuments themselves, allowing future generations to inspect and study their appearance, design and foundational structure.

“Florence As It Was” has received international support and recognition over the past eight years and has involved the work of over two dozen W&L students, as well as faculty advisers from academic institutions in the United States, Canada, Italy and Great Britain. The team recently received a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to support student research work, and the project was featured in a case study and documentary produced by Leica Geosystems, whose 3D laser-scanning products have been used to create the digital reconstruction of Florence.

For more information about the 2023-24 exhibition and programming schedule, visit Staniar Gallery’s website: my.wlu.edu/staniar-gallery/current-season.

Staniar Gallery is located on the second floor of Wilson Hall, in Washington and Lee University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts. When the campus is open to the public, gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, please call 540-458-8861.

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