Art of the Americas Interactive

Julia McHugh, Mark Olson, Ed Triplett

The Nasher Museum of Art and the Wired Lab for Digital Art History & Visual Culture are teaming up this fall to re-imagine the exhibition of the Nasher’s collection of ancient American Art, one of the best university art museum collections of work by Maya, Aztec, and Inca cultures.

For over 25 years, this collection has sat largely untouched in museum storage. In the past year, the museum has begun studying and preparing this collection for display. Two exhibitions are currently in progress: the first, an exhibition on the relationship of ancient Americans to the ocean, featuring ceramics, textiles, and bone and wood carvings of crabs, lobsters, sting rays, sea birds, shells, and other sea creatures; and the second, a reinstallation of the Art of the Americas gallery to feature artwork from South America.

A crucial component of both of these exhibitions is the production of digital 3D models of pieces in our collection for both research and teaching purposes. We aim to use this technology and other digital means to move beyond the realm of vision to capture the full sensory experience of the ancient Americas, including the sounds, bodily sensations, and textures generated by artworks. The creation of a model of an Inca ceramic vessel, for example, leads to critical discoveries about artistic process and original function: How does the study of its texture reveal the technique of ancient Peruvian ceramic artists? How does a replica allow us to study its performative use and the way it held liquid and emitted sound when poured? We plan to use these models within the exhibition galleries and as an educational tool for students at Duke and in the greater Durham community.


Image Credit: Views of a 3D scan of an Art of the Americas object from the Nasher Museum of Art collection. Inca, Pacha with Ears of Corn, 1438–1532. Terracotta with slip, 4 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (10.8 x 10.8 cm). The Paul A. and Virginia Clifford Collection, 1973.1.408.

Mapping Occupied Krakow

Paul Jaskot

As is well known, Krakow became a key location within the National Socialist plan for military expansion and the implementation of genocide in Eastern Europe during World War II. Here Hans Frank and the General Government he led developed their policies of oppression and occupation by establishing a formidable military and SS presence as well as claiming Krakow as “Germanized” again. Yet, while these policies and ideologies have been analyzed by scholars, little attention has been spent on how they were enacted in the built form of Krakow itself. This article addresses the key urban planning and architectural initiatives meant to “Germanize” Krakow, establish military rule, and also rid the city of its Jewish population. In particular, it will look at an integrated history of the built environment, comparing both the analog visual evidence of Nazi plans, drawings, and photographs with the digital exploration of the importance of victim spaces, above all the Jewish ghetto. The plans for rebuilding Krakow, led by architect Hubert Ritter, were ambitious and followed the goals of rebuilding cities established by Hitler for Nuremberg, Berlin, and elsewhere. So, too, of course, were the goals of concentrating and ultimately murdering the Jewish population of Krakow and the surrounding areas as part of the radicalization of the Holocaust. Spatial visualizations then and now help us to conceptualize these disparate histories together, seeing how the ambitions for establishing Nazi presence complemented and contradicted spatial planning for the Jewish community. In Krakow, the nationalist goals of a Nazi imperial East were imagined and enabled through architecture and control of the built environment.


Mark Olson

Victoria Szabo

Hannah Jacobs

Augustus Wendell

Cosimo Monteleone

Jannis Stoter

Tatjana Zimbelius-Klem

Bryan Rusch

Antonio LoPiano

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

Anna Cunningham

Marina Frattaroli

Lucas Giles

Adair Jones

Lucian Li

Gabriella Salvatore


Wired! The Lives of Things


The Alife Arch

The Lives of Things

Augmenting Scoletta del Carmine

MONADII: Methodologies and Best Practice for Non-Destructive Approaches to Interoperable Design and Management of Cultural Heritage
Rachele Bernardello, Emanuela Faresin, Mirka Dalla Longa, Guilia Piccinin
Spring 2018

This research project, in part developed in the Wired! Lab at Duke University, celebrates the Scoletta del Carmine, a fifteenth-century space that originally functioned as the seat of the Carmelite confraternity in Padua, Italy. The historical research and digital surveys (photogrammetry, laser scans, geo-radar, and thermo-camera imagery) have formed the basis for a digital reconstruction of the Scoletta in relationship to the adjacent church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The interior reconstruction benefits from the scientific analysis of the frescoes, namely the perspectival restitution of the imagery, which has enabled 3D modeling of the painted spaces and fictive architecture. This data is presented in three different Virtual Reality platforms—the Oculus Rift, the Cave (Duke DiVE), and web VR. Beginning in July 2018, these dynamic and multi-sensory experiences can be enjoyed by the broad and varied public who visits the Scoletta in Padua, part of an academic/touristic itinerary developed by the School of Architecture and Engineering at the University of Padua.

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

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.

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.


Book of Fortresses

Ed Triplett
2017-present | Project Website

The aim of the Book of Fortresses project is to spatially reconstruct an exceptional architectural source from early modern Portugal called the Livro das Fortalezas (Book of Fortresses). The book contains 120 perspective drawings and architectural plans of more than 55 fortresses and fortified towns along the border between Portugal and Spain. It also contains a brief but clear itinerary followed by the book’s author (a Portuguese Squire named Duarte de Armas) when he traveled to each site in 1509.The digital project takes a multi-scale approach to the book. At the architectural scale, the group is constructing parametric 3D models of the fortifications according to Duarte de Armas’ measured plans and perspective drawings in order to better understand d’Armas’ visualizations. 3D “billboards” of d’Armas’ perspective drawings are also oriented to the landscape within a 3D GIS and in the Unity game engine. Finally, at the national / peninsula scale, Duarte de Armas’ itinerary is plotted with viewshed analyses from each site in order to analyze whether it is appropriate to refer to the string of fortresses as a “chain” or “borderline.”

In January 2020, the Office of Digital Humanities at the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) awarded Ed Triplett and Phil Stern (Duke, History) a level II grant to develop the methodologies implemented by the Book of Fortresses project into an applicable workflow for visualizing non-cartesian maps and views using a combination of GIS, CAD and game engine software.


Daniel Castro

Cyan DeVeaux

Hillman Han

Audrey Magnusen


Former Collaborators:

Rory Dierman

Cameron Esses

Stone Mathers

News & Events

Video: Ed Triplett on Unreal Spaces and Real Places

Protected: Historical GIS StoryMaps

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

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