Archive for the ‘Project’ Category

Final Presentation Details

Our time in Venice is drawing to a close! To showcase what we have been working on this semester, we will be having our final presentation Tuesday, December 15, 2009. It will begin around 10:00am and last about an hour. Two of our associate groups will be presenting directly following our presentation, so you can get a real feel for what the Venice Project Center is all about. There is no need to stay for all of them, but you are welcome to! To read about the rest of the presentations and the projects click here.

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frari churchWe, as a team, were lucky enough to be able to visit the Venice State Archive with our advisors, Professors Fabio Carrera and Dan Gibson. Our visit was on Friday, November 6th. We left our apartment with plenty of time to get lost, since we had never been to this part of Venice before. Armed with our less-than-excellent map, we set off with a general idea of where the archive should be. It is housed in the former convent of the Santa Maria dei Frari. Fortunately, it is quite a large church, because we got a little lost on the way. We could see the clock tower from where we were, so we used that to find our way. It is one of the most astounding sights I have ever seen. We walked along one side of the church, and found our way to the main entrance of the archive. Our advisors met us there. We were given a tour by, Giovanni, one of the employees of the archive, also a good friend of Professor Carrera. He gave us a detailed explanation of how the archive works.  Apparently, it is required by law that any individual can enter the archive and use its documents for research. Individuals may request to see the actual documents, or settle for digital or paper copies of the original source material. The Study Room of the archive is where individuals go to look over the documents, since these are not allowed to exit the archive. It is quite a large room, with carefully arranged wooden tables and chairs. the study roomPast the Study Room is the first cloister, called the Cloister of the Holy Trinity. It is almost a perfect square, adorned with statues and sculptures that pay homage to the Holy Trinity. It is very beautiful. We continued our tour up some very dimly lit stairs, to where the actual documents are kept. My team and I had seen pictures of the documents, but it was astounding to see them in person. The shelves were stacked up to the ceiling, and there was not a single shelf that was not filled to capacity. The rows seemed to continue endlessly in all directions. Just the dates of the books alone were enough to make our jaws hit the floor. Documents dating back to the 1200s, 1300s, 1400s, et cetera, are still in readable condition. Each document in a series is numbered, and kept in precise order. Each region of shelves is dedicated to a particular office of the Venetian Republic. Our “tour guide” informed us that the original organizers of the archive wanted to mirror, as much as possible, theshelves organizational method used in the Ducal Palace, when all of the official documents were held there. Past this first room of documents, was another room where workers were trying to recreate an ancient map that was beginning to tear and fall apart. I believe it was from the Napoleonic era, but I cannot be sure. The map took up the entire table, and was incredibly detailed. We moved on to another room, where another individual was working on scanning an ancient map, using a scanner that stood vertically and covered an entire wall. This scanner used special techniques to remove wrinkles from the parchment and to enhance what was depicted on it. The machine does several passes scanning the image, and then the individual works to patch the different fragments together on the computer program. It seems to be quite a painstaking, but worthwhile process. Similarly, other individuals within the archive work with regular written documents, and more “normal” scanning techniques to scan and copy images of the pages. These pages are the ones that become available to people who wish to use the documents in the Study Room. Most of these copies are done on a need-only basis, but others are done because the documents are in danger of becoming illegible. Our last stop was to see the director of the Venice State Archive, to explain what it is we are trying to accomplish with Uscript, and how it could potentially benefit the transcription processes in the archive. Fortunately, our advisor speaks Italian, so he was able to explain much better than we alone could. Our new friend and contact, who led us on this tour of the archive, told us that we should arrange another visit to enable us to better appreciate the age of the documents. Thus, we plan on going back within the next few weeks, to spend more time exploring this wealth of history and information.

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