Reimagining a Medieval Choir Screen

December 21, 2016
Andrea Basso, Elisa Castagna

In Fall 2016, the Wired! Lab hosted two Master’s students, Andrea Basso and Elisa Castagna, from the University of Padua. The following is an account of their experience at Duke and the project they worked on.

Project Sta. Chiara in Naples

Nave with Choir Screen


Sta. Chiara is one of the largest churches of Naples, erected between 1310 and c. 1340 by the King and Queen of Naples, Robert the Wise and Sancia of Mallorca.  It was reconstructed after the Allied bombardment of August, 1943, which damaged the walls and destroyed the stucco decoration of the 18th century.

In the Middle Ages the nave of Sta. Chiara, as in other religious buildings, was divided into several sections by a choir screen, or tramezzo.  These were substantial masonry walls that separated the lay public from the clergy; in the case of this church, the choir screen would have included chapels and altars that were important for the devotion of the lay public.

Prof. Caroline Bruzelius (Duke University) has worked with a group of students and colleagues at Duke University and the Universities of Padua, Naples, and Salerno on this project, trying to reconstruct the choir screen and the church with the help of 3D technologies. Creating a 3D model enabled the research team to think through the various options and arrive at a plausible hypothesis of the dimensions of the choir screen at Sta. Chiara, engaging as well with issues of visibility from the nave of the church through to the main altar and the tomb of King Robert the Wise (d. 1343).

Choir Screen with Entablature

Elisa Castagna and Andrea Basso, two students of Building Engineering and Architecture at the the University of Padua, created with the help of Paolo Borin, a PhD student at the IUAV University of Venice, a 3D model with Revit, a building information modeling software that allows architects and other building professionals to design and document a building by creating a parametric three-dimensional model that included both the geometry and non-geometric design and construction information.

The point cloud of the interior and the exterior of Sta. Chiara produced by Emanuela De Feo at the University of Salerno was the starting point of the reconstruction: it allowed us to create a scale 3D model and to build new parametric objects in Revit that represent each type of window, wall, door, roof, vault, and column.

Floor Plan

The reconstruction of the choir screen was based on the evidence of geo-radar groundscans given by Prof. Leopoldo Repola (University of Naples) with the help of Prof. Andrea Giordano (University of Padua):  good evidence of the location of a monumental partition wall was found.

Working with Andrea and Elisa, Lucas Giles,  an MA student in Digital Art History at Duke, and Prof. Caroline Bruzelius were able to produce a hypothetical model of the tramezzo through historical data, geo-radar evidence and the 3D church: thanks to the power of the parametric modeling the choir screen could change the shape and the size easily, so it was possible to see how the tramezzo connected with the entire church.

In order to study also the issues of visibility from the nave through to the main altar and the tomb of King Robert the Wise, these last two elements were built and placed in the model of the church.

Finally the modeling team decided to insert on the top of the choir screen the relief that was destroyed during the war: with the help of some pictures before the destruction it was possible to create a simple model with the use of Photoshop and CrazyBump of how the relief could have appeared.

The last step was to export the model of the church into 3D StudioMax and then into Unity. This latter software was used to write scripts with the help of David Zielinski, Research and Development Engineer for the Duke Immersive Virtual Environment (DiVE), and Prof. Regis Kopper (Duke University) in order to visualize the model inside the Cardboard and the Duke’s immersive environment: in this way it was possible to see the relationship between the choir screen and the interior of the church in full scale.

Exterior of Sta. Chiara

During this workflow other aspects concerning the use of Revit were analysed:

  • how to export the geometry from Revit to 3DStudioMax
  • the research about passing BIM information through Unity, in which all elements have their ID and their properties
  • how to obtain a 3D printed model from a Revit file
  • the importation of mesh inside Revit and Dynamo

The development of this project has required the knowledge of Photoscan, Recap, Autocad, Revit, Dynamo and MeshLab for the modeling of the church, Photoshop and CrazyBump for the relief’s reconstruction, and 3DStudioMax and Unity in order to visualize the project in virtual reality.

About Our Experience

Working with Prof. Caroline Bruzelius we were able to develop our knowledge about Building Information Modeling and how to use this tool for historical research; for the first time we could work with virtual reality and with software that we had never used before.

This experience has taught us not only how to work with people of different disciplines and how our knowledge in the field of Achitecture and Engineering can be used to obtain a good model and visualization, but also how to build a model that contains for each element qualitative and quantitative information.

Any of this wouldn’t have been possible if many people, with different knowledge backgrounds, hadn’t come together to work towards a common goal. It has been a remarkable experience for us, being able to engage with a lot of different people and get to know Duke University, in particular the people and the projects of the Wired! Lab in the department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies.

Spring Undergraduate Fellowships

December 5, 2016

Wired! is excited to announce new research opportunities for Duke undergraduates in Spring 2017. Interested in becoming a Wired! Fellow? You could become part of a team that is animating historical imagery; building a historical geospatial database; or designing an interactive mobile app for the Nasher. Read the project descriptions below for more information!

If you would like to participate, please send an email detailing relevant experience & interest in participation to the project leader(s) of your choice listed below.


Map History: Paris of Waters

Applications will be accepted for motivated students with a solid reading knowledge of French. This project takes an innovative approach to urban history. It redirects the focus from Paris’ built environment to a study of its infrastructure as related to water—its management through navigable above-ground waterways, underground works, hydraulics, waste management, and the provision of drinking water to the city’s inhabitants. Students will mine published historic city records related to water, making a contribution to a research-based digital visualization of data findings. Applications should be submitted to Professor Sara Galletti, sara.galletti[at]


Develop Components of a Digital Exhibition: Jacopo de’ Barbari’s Portrait of Venice

project-portrait-thumbApplications will be accepted for students with a range of research, computer science, and data visualization skills. The project includes an exhibition opening at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in September 2017. The experience of seeing the original woodblock print of Jacopo de’ Barbari’s View of Venice, ca. 1500, from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts will be enriched by a series of interactive, innovative digital displays. These displays engage not only with the inventions necessary for making a groundbreaking work of art, but also with historical and social themes visible in the print. Students will conduct various assignments directly related to the digital displays for the exhibition. Applications should be submitted to Professor Kristin Huffman, kristin.huffman[at]


Create an Interactive Museum Display in the Nasher: The Medieval Arch from Alife, Italy

project-alife-orig2This research team will produce a digital interactive display for the Nasher Museum during the Spring of 2017, a display that will focus attention on the wild beasts and critters of the remarkable arch from the town of Alife, near Naples.  Students will be expected to learn new skills, such as vector painting in 3D studio Max and other digital representational technologies.  This will be fun! Team leader will be Lucas Giles, MA in Digital Art History, Duke University, working closely with Professor C. Bruzelius, Julia Liu, and the Wired! team. Applications should be submitted to Professor Caroline Bruzelius, caroline.bruzelius[at]


Kingdom of Sicily Image Database Launches!

November 1, 2016

The Kingdom of Sicily Image Database ( collects historic drawings, paintings, engravings and photographs that depict the medieval monuments and cities South Italy erected between c. 1100 and c. 1450 CE.  The images are gathered from museums, libraries, archives, and publications, and for the most part they depict monuments prior to destruction or significant alteration as a result of wars, earthquakes, extensive restoration, and simple neglect.  The dates of the images range from the late sixteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries.  A number of twentieth-century photographs show damage from the devastating WWII bombardments in South Italy, as well as of the process of restoration.

The Kingdom of Sicily Image Database includes location maps and a “slide show” feature to enable travelers and scholars to locate monuments in large cities such as Naples or Palermo.  The slide show enables comparisons of historic images of specific sites.  Images are reproduced at low resolution, and viewers are directed towards the collections of origin for higher quality images and further information.  All users are requested to agree to the terms of use prior to utilizing the website.

The project was initiated with a Collaborative Research Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Technical development (database, website, and storage) are provided by Trinity Technology Services at Duke University.  The Hertziana Library assisted with consultation, library resources, an office, and meeting space.  The Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies and the Wired! Lab at Duke University has hosted the project and actively participated in the design and development of the database and website.

The database is a work in progress and is by no means exhaustive or complete.

A Tour of the NC Art Museum’s “Reunited: Francescuccio Ghissi’s St. John Altarpiece “

September 16, 2016

The North Carolina Museum of Art recently opened a new exhibition in collaboration with a Duke University research group, Image Processing for Art Investigation (IPAI), headed by Professor Ingrid Daubechies. A group from Wired! traveled to Raleigh to tour the exhibit with the museum’s head conservator, Bill Brown, and our own member of the project team, Ed Triplett. The exhibit tells the story of a fourteenth-century Italian altarpiece, its conservation, and scholars’ attempts to understand how it was made through modern recreation. In addition to the altarpiece itself, the narrative is shared with museum goers through digital models, videos, and material displays. Triplett contributed to a 3D digital rendering of the altarpiece that simulates how the altarpiece may have appeared at the time of its creation.

The exhibition will be open through March 5, 2017. Read more about the project’s development here.

Photos by Caroline Bruzelius & Lee Sorensen.

Published: Visualizing Venice Workshop Materials

September 1, 2016

We’re publishing our Visualizing Venice 2016 Summer Workshop materials online under a CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. These include our schedule, slides, tutorials, and links to other resources. The site was edited throughout the workshop, and we’ve made only minor changes to its organization. (Remember, a messy desk is a sign of creativity.) We hope you’ll use these and share them with your students and colleagues! (Just remember to cite your sources.) Enjoy!

Access the Visualizing Venice: The Ghetto of Venice Website.

Read more about the Visualizing Venice Summer Workshop.

Back To School Tutorials for Teaching

August 24, 2016

It still feels like summer in Durham, but classes start next week. As we’re preparing our syllabi, we’re also pulling together resources for integrating tools like Omeka, TimelineJS, StoryMapJS, and others into our teaching. Here are a few of the new or updated guides we’ve just published. They are packed with basic how-tos, ideas for workflow and project management, tips and tricks for beginners and advanced users, and resources for learning more about how other scholars are making use of these tools. Use these to teach yourself and your students! Check out our Tutorials page for more guides and resources.

  • Build digital archives & exhibits with
  • Create historical timelines collaboratively in TimelineJS.
  • Develop and share spatial narratives with StoryMapJS.

Questions or comments? Send them to hannah[dot]jacobs[at]duke[dot]edu.

Banner image sources: Omeka and The Knight Lab.

Archive of Visualizing Venice Workshop

What happened at the Visualizing Venice 2016 workshop? Check out our public archive of the event:

Wired! Students Receive Major Awards & Employment Opportunities

May 10, 2016

A number of the Wired! Lab’s graduate and undergraduate students have received external awards and employment opportunities. Here’s a little bit about what they’ll be doing this summer and post-Wired. Congratulations, all!



Elizabeth Baltes is receiving her PhD in the History of Art. Her research focuses on the intersection of sculpture, politics, and space in the ancient world. Her work leverages digital visualization technologies, such as 3-D modeling and mapping softwares, not only as a means of representation, but also as a method of inquiry.

In August 2016, Elizabeth will begin a tenure-track appointment as Assistant Professor of Ancient Art History at Coastal Carolina University (Conway, SC). One of her duties will be spearheading the Ashes2Artinitiative, which transforms the undergraduate learning experience through on-site research and student-driven digital projects. Elizabeth’s training in the Wired! Lab—both in terms of her own research projects and working with undergraduate students—has prepared her well for leading this exciting digital program at CCU.



Annie Haueter is a junior majoring in Computer Science and minoring in Art History and Economics.

For this coming summer, she has accepted a position with Apple at their headquarters in Cupertino, California. She will be working as a Frameworks Quality Assurance intern beginning early May until late August, and her work will consist of writing code for automation projects for OS X, the operating system for Mac. Being from the San Francisco area herself, she is extremely excited to return home to work with such an innovative company.

Wired! had a part to play in her being awarded this opportunity. Throughout the interviewing process, one aspect of her resume always came up—her research at the Wired! Lab. Annie’s interviewers were truly interested in what the lab is doing, and as a computer science major, it was refreshing to be able to discuss some aspect of technology that did not revolve around strict coding and syntax. Instead, she was able to share her experiences collaborating with a team of dynamic thinkers who approach topics from outside of the box. Her particular work from this past semester has also largely revolved around problem solving, and as a member of the Apple QA team, she knows these skills will be put to good use this summer. Annie has learned so much through Wired!, and it’s all thanks to the initial research opportunity she was offered by Dr. Kristin Huffman almost three years ago. Annie looks forward to her internship with Apple, but she also looks forward to returning to the lab in the Fall to continue working with such a wonderful group of people.



Elisabeth Narkin is a candidate for the PhD in the History of Art and is currently writing her dissertation, which analyzes the manner in which the social life of the French court and royal family unfolded in the architectural spaces of châteaux located in and around Paris.

Elisabeth has been awarded a Carter Manny Research Fellowship from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, whose mission is “to foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society.” This year-long fellowship for academic year 2016-2017 provides support for her to continue working on her dissertation, “Rearing the Royals: Architecture and the Spatialization of Royal Childhood in France, 1499–1610.”

Working with Wired! over the years enabled her to ask different questions and to seek answers using digital technologies. She frequently use 3D modeling to understand the relative dimensions of royal apartments as well as to demonstrate how sixteenth-century residents moved between interior spaces. A chapter on the territoriality of the French royal children’s movements uses a series of ArcGIS maps to visualize over 2,500 days worth of travel records. These itineraries reveal that the royal family favored certain buildings under specific circumstances, each playing a distinct role in the network of residences. The corresponding interactive ArcGIS maps permit analysis of the frequency, range, and significance of the children’s travel, as well as changes over time.


Joseph Williams is a Ph.D. candidate studying medieval architecture.

Joseph has been awarded a 2-year Pre-doctoral Rome Prize (Phyllis W. G. Gordan/Lily Auchincloss/Samuel H. Kress Foundation) starting in the fall of 2016, a fellowship that will allow him to work alongside a multidisciplinary community of artists, architects, and scholars at the American Academy in Rome. At the Academy, Joseph will continue his dissertation research on church architecture in 12th- and 13th-century Apulia, in southeast Italy, with a special focus on the circulation of specialized architectural knowledge during a period of growing trade and communications in the Mediterranean.

This project has benefitted in particular from two skills that Joseph developed through Wired! workshops and lab meetings. He will use photogrammetry–a technology that stitches together a three-dimensional point cloud from photographs of a space–to generate 3D and 2D drawings that accurately capture the variations in architectural knowledge brought to bear in the construction of churches, such as proportional geometry and stone-working techniques. Joseph will also create a Geographic Information System (GIS) to visualize the dissemination of building practices across time and space, and thereby better relate these patterns of circulation to environmental and historical conditions. Joseph will have the opportunity to hone his modeling and mapping skills by collaborating with architects, archaeologists, art historians, and social historians at the American Academy and at other international academies in the Eternal City.

Wired! at DH2016

July 12, 2016 — July 15, 2016
Kraków, Poland

The Wired! Lab will be making several appearances at the Digital Humanities 2016 conference in Kraków this summer! Here’s where you’ll find us:


Tuesday, July 12th

Digital Archiving & Storytelling in the Classroom with Omeka & CurateScape

Victoria Szabo, Hannah Jacobs, Ed Triplett

Time: 9:30 AM – 1:00 PM

This tutorial is an intensive introduction to archive development and storytelling within the Omeka content management and exhibition system. We will also demonstrate the use of the CurateScape framework, which allows users to create location-based itineraries drawn from Omeka items optimized for mobile devices. Over the course of the tutorial we will introduce participants to the principles of digital archive collection development using exercises developed for the Duke University Wired! Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture tutorials.

Friday, July 15th

The North Carolina Jukebox Project: Archives Alive and the Making of Digital Cultural Heritage

Victoria Szabo

Session: D22: Long Paper Session: Teaching DH, teaching with DH 2

Time: 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM

The North Carolina Jukebox project transforms an inaccessible audio archive from the 1930s, of historic North Carolina, USA folk music collected by Frank Clyde Brown, into a vital, publicly accessible digital archive and museum exhibition.Led by Trudi Abel, a librarian in the Rubenstein Special Collections Library at Duke University, and Victoria Szabo, a faculty member in Visual and Media Studies and Information Science + Studies at Duke, this interdisciplinary, collaborative effort also involves scholars in music and folklore, music and preservation librarians, digital media specialists, descendants of the original performers, and contemporary musicians who play this music professionally today.


Wired!: Collaborative Teaching & Critical Digital Making in an Art History Classroom

Hannah Jacobs

Session: D23: Short Paper Session: Teaching DH, teaching with DH 3

Time: 2:30 – 4:00 PM

In the Wired! classroom’s collaborative teaching model, a digital humanist takes on a significant role in both course planning and implementation. She works with instructors, graduate assistants, and librarians to redesign syllabi and assignments for preexisting departmental courses that incorporate not only digital tools but also critical methods. She then attends class meetings to familiarize herself with courses’ art historical content; she delivers workshops on digital concepts and tools; and she works with instructors and students to establish project workflows, to troubleshoot technical issues, and to critique student work. For students, this kind of collaboration can provide opportunities to make intellectual connections across two modes of inquiry as they apply digital methodologies to art historical topics. For instructors, this collaboration can enrich pedagogical practice as digital methods present different possibilities for student engagement.

More information about DH2016 | Full DH2016 schedule | DH2016 Book of Abstracts

Visualizing Venice: The Ghetto of Venice

June 8, 2016 — June 20, 2016
Venice International University, Venice, Italy
Instructors: Caroline Bruzelius, Mark Olson, Victoria Szabo (Duke University) TAs: Ludovica Galeazzo (University of Venice); Hannah Jacobs, Ed Triplett (Duke University)

Application deadline: March 31, 2016.

What is it about?

Digital Technologies for Historical and Cultural visualization are transforming the ways that scholars
can study and represent works of art, as well as growth and change in urban spaces and buildings. With the support of The Getty Foundation as part of its Digital Art History initiative, The Wired! Lab at Duke University, Università Iuav di Venezia, the University of Padua, and Venice International University are collaborating on a Summer Workshop that will train Art, Architectural and Urban Historians with the digital media that can enhance or transform their research questions and their capacity to communicate narratives about objects, places and spaces to the public.
Instruction will be in English.

The course will engage with the Ghetto of Venice on the 500th anniversary of its creation as case
study for training with a variety of technologies and applications. (On June 19th there will be the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the history of the Ghetto curated by Prof. Donatella Calabi).


Course description

The summer course will teach a range of digital skills in mapping, 3D modeling, mobile application
development, and time based media authorship to enable participants to engage historical questions with emerging digital tools. The technologies are taught through the use of a theme, which for the summer of 2016 is “The Ghetto of Venice”.
During the first week of the course participants will learn techniques for digital production by drawing
upon existing research materials. Each day, participants will learn about a different type of digital media production within the context of how that type of reconstruction is typically used in digital art and architectural history.
During the second week, the participants will work collaboratively to create projects using the tools they have learned, with the goal of creating high-quality, public-facing research products suitable for a general audience, as well as identifying potential areas to explore in their own future research.


Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes include: familiarity and facility with digital media production tools for digital art
and architectural history; awareness of the critical and practical challenges to the fields that digital
production techniques pose; understanding of the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings of digital
media authorship as an intervention into digital heritage and lived experience of the city.


Who can apply?

The workshop is designed for Ph.D or Post doctoral participants in the Interpretive Humanities (including Cultural Patrimony, History of Art, Architecture and Urbanism, History, Geography, Architecture, Archaeology, and other relevant disciplines).

Preference will be given to Ph.D. students and recent Ph.D. graduates in History of Art, Architecture and Urbanism.
Instruction will be in English, of which participants must have an adequate working knowledge.
Maximum number of participants: 16


Application form available here.

Program structure

The course duration is 12 days. Participants should expect to be engaged full time in during the twelve
days. Participants should plan to arrive June 7 and depart June 21.

An official Duke University/Università Iuav/Venice International University joint Certificate will be issued at the end of the course.
Number of ECTS credits allocated: 3

Duration and Period

12 days, June 8 – 20, 2016


Venice International University on the island of San Servolo in the Venetian Lagoon is an ideal setting
for onsite study. Participants can live in the housing facilities of the island of San Servolo, or arrange for accommodation in the city of Venice.


Tuition and Scholarships

Tuition fees are euro 1,000 (+22%VAT).
Scholarships are available in order to support tuition, travel, board and accommodation expenses.
Thanks to the generosity of the Getty Foundation.
Contacts and info:

Venice International University
Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice
T +39 041 2719511
F +39 041 2719510
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View the 2015 workshop’s public archive. Download the PDF brochure.


Visualizing Venice summer workshop is organized by Venice International University and jointly promoted by:


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With the support of: