Hidden Florence: Geo-located historical walks in a context-aware environment.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Modern Languages Italian


The Hidden Florence project addresses a non-academic audience of visitors to the historic city through the medium of audio-walks delivered on site through smartphone apps. The project is delivered by an international team of researchers and gallery professionals concerned with the lived experience and material culture of public space in early modern cities in Italy, presenting this through an innovative and engaging medium. We will work collaboratively to create a locative history city-guide smartphone app (for Android and iOS devices), through which issues of place, movement, meaning, and interaction with end users are placed at the heart of the research process and the end-user experience. The Hidden Florence project develops and creates new value from AHRC-funded work by PI that explored the everyday experience of early modern public space, including Taverns, Locals and Street Corners: Cross-Chronological Studies in Community Drinking, Regulation and Public Space (AH/J006610/1) and the Street Life and Street Culture research network (AH/G000417/1). It significantly develops the impact, reach and unanticipated potentialities for engagement with the museum and tourism sector of the AHRC-funded pilot project, Street Life Renaissance Florence (AH/K005138/1, 2013). This received additional university and HEIF funding, leading to the creation of a prototype app, Hidden Florence (see: www.hiddenflorence.org) published in July 2014, and has attracted considerable attention among the academic peer community. The current proposal sets out to test its scalability by developing a research methodology and collaboratively-created outputs developed in the context of workshop-driven activities.

The project assembles a team academics working in digital humanities applied to early modern Florence, including an international CoI Prof Nicholas Terpstra, director of the DECIMA (Digitally Encoded Census Information and Mapping Archive) research team at the University of Toronto, and CoI Dr Donal Cooper (University of Cambridge) who led a 3D visualisation of San Pier Maggiore project in collaboration with the National Gallery (2014). This offers a valuable opportunity for initial collaboration, which has to date remained informal, and we anticipate will be taken forward through other grant applications in UK and Canada (see Terpstra's attached letter). Importantly, we will also work closely with a group of project partners, including the city of Florence UNESCO world heritage office, the Polo Museale della Toscana (the state agency that manages many of the city's museums) and the National Gallery (London), to co-create public-facing outputs (app and supporting website) that connect with art works in gallery collections and address UNESCO policies for this much-visited city. The team and project partners thus combine academic researchers, gallery and heritage professionals and policy-makers in order to create public-facing outputs that address audiences of local residents, tourists, as well as students. We will be working with Calvium (http://calvium.com/) - industry leaders in user-experience design for placemaking location-based apps - to create the editing platform within which to build the app. The app will be made available freely on the AppStore and GooglePlay sites, and promoted through the extensive networks of our project partners, as well as with the support of our university press offices.

The project offers a significant opportunity for international research and development collaboration between academics and museum professionals in the context of digital outputs aimed at a wide public of users. Combining state of the art product design supported by Calvium and research-based content, delivered in the form of a locative media augmented reality experience, the project adopts digital humanities approaches for the purposes of impact and engagement.

Planned Impact

We will work closely with major museum collections, and as the supporting letters show, these enable us to build engagement with the heritage sector into the project, and provide established channels for our research to reach a wider audience. The museums will provide us with access to their collections and rights to use of copyrighted materials (maps, images, objects, texts) in our app. As part of this collaboration, the project will create research-based content and digital outputs that the museums will be able to use in their displays and outreach activities.

Through workshop activities we will engage directly with art and material culture (public spaces and built fabric in the city, artworks and objects in collections) from the early modern period. We will explore and better-understand how such objects can reveal the histories of the uses of public space, and we will create written content which the museums will be able to use in physical and digital display contexts, and will also be used in the project website. A key activity - to be developed in collaboration with the project partners - is the creation of a locative city-guide app. While the precise content, format and user-experience design for this will be developed collaboratively through a series of workshops, it is anticipated that these will enable artworks and objects in the museum collections to be virtually "re-positioned" in their original locations in the city. This will enable users to re-engage with their original context and meaning in public space.

The project has at its heart communication and engagement with a wider public of citizens and visitors. Through the app and supporting website the project has potential to offer considerable value to non-academic users, and is designed to reach a wider public through a project design in which museums are integral partners. We will achieve impact goals:

- through involvement of policy and practice stakeholders from the outset, we engage historical research with contemporary curatorial practices while also addressing key concerns of heritage policies.

- by facilitating exchange between academics and museum professionals around shared aims of communicating high quality research.

- working with project partners to co-create new content delivered in the form of an app and supporting website.

- working with the Florence UNESCO team to create opportunities that address a key management plan objective of diversifying tourism in the city (and encouraging access to the less visited museums in the Polo Museale network).

- working with major art museums in Italy (Polo Museale Toscano) and UK (National Gallery), we will disseminate research directly to visitors to these collections.

- making our digital outputs widely available through the project partner museum networks and communication (websites, signage, fixed displays) as well as our project website.

- deliver innovation through the creation of high quality academic historical research to the public (tourists, local residents, students) through co-creation and collaboration with museum professionals.

- achieve wider societal engagement through social and print media releases and publicity around the apps, facilitated by AP museum press offices and local city tourism office (see below).


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