HistAntArtSI Database (under construction)

The HistAntArtSI Database is not the final object of the research, but it is certainly a necessary instrument that helps at an initial level to record the notable amount of data collected by the research group, and at a higher level enabling us to compare the ways in which each of the individual centres of southern Italy created their own identitities and to recognize not only the specific characteristics of each one but also highlight unrecorded contact points across the whole territory of the Kingdom.
The HistAntArtSI Database was conceived by the PI from the beginning of the project and was designed and planned by the research group in collaboration with the IT staff of the PIX s.r.l. company.
The Database reflects the interdisciplinary character of the project by bringing together different types of data, objects and relationships, relating to antiquities and their local reuse, works of art and architecture, as well as local histories produced in southern Italy between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. It also includes an index of the extant archival sources for the cities of this area.
Specific files have been created for the single types of objects involved in the research (see the pdf file attached to the Mid-term Report with samples of the database files). "Archaeological Monuments" or "Archaeological objects", considered either as single pieces or objects reused in new contexts, were selected on the basis of the existence of a material, literary and documentary proof of their presence - and of contemporary knowledge of this presence - between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, following the approach of the Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance, with which HistAntArtSI is cooperating. The database includes entries for "Buildings" and "Works of art" created between the mid-fourteenth century and the end of the sixteenth century. Apart from containing all the data essential to describe the building or works of art in themselves, such as a brief description of the object and its history, the patron, textual and iconographic sources and bibliography, all such files also include those elements which allow for the creation of interdisciplinary relationships, bringing in evidence for example of all the families and individuals involved in the work, the reuse of ancient elements or inscriptions. Such relations are highlighted through links to other files included in the HistAntArtSI Database. Entries relating to "Printed Books" and "Manuscripts" include all the essential data of an exemplar, such as its textual composition and/or publication, the author, the date, the binding, the presence of dedications, images or illuminated decoration. Files on "City Archives" do not relate to modern archival institutions but reconstruct the archives which were created between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries by individual centres in southern Italy and which have subsequently over time been dispersed in multiple locations. In the "Family and Person" files, together with biographical information about an individual or a family, we can find information relating to the patronage and the production of buildings and works of art, manuscripts, the presence of funerary monuments, as well as the commission of manuscripts or books. Files relating to "Drawings" catalogue all the autograph and printed iconographic sources relating to the centres of southern Italy and include maps and views as well as images of single ancient or modern buildings or works of art. The "Inscriptions" files do not include ancient epigraphs, for which we refer to the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (vols. 9-10), but the inscriptions created between the medieval and early modern period in the individual centres of the Kingdom. For the main centres HistAntArtSI has created summary files under the title "City", which describe the main features of a single city between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, such as its legal and religious institutions, economy, families, antiquities, architecture, art, cartography, literary production, in order to have a summary but complete picture of selected centres. The specific fields included in each "City" file contain links to the individual files in the Database, which can be accessed by clicking on the highlighted link.
Most of the files contain works which are already known to the local Soprintendenze or other local offices, but which remain unknown to the international literature in the field, are difficult to reach and on which the specialised bibliography can only be found in local libraries. Furthermore each object is reconsidered through the specific focus of the HistAntArtSI project and through a comparative method, which also includes new international bibliographical entries.
All the files of the Database are accompanied by photos with the possibility of inserting attachments, or creating a photo gallery; it is also possible to insert links to other sites and databases. Each file may also be exported as a PDF.
Each file, far from being a static and separate element, allows users to navigate through places and disciplines by means of the interactive links. If the detailed individual files are in effect short articles in which the specific expertise of the individual members of the research team emerges, the HistAntArtSI Database adds to the catalogue a strongly relational, reconstructive and interpretative character, which reveals the interdisciplinary work of the group.
The synchronized work on the same object from different points of view in fact allows users to gradually reconstruct the relations between the different files and to understand what was known about and when, in what condition single works were preserved, and the possible changes they had undergone. Such interactive relations also allow us to reconstruct the original provenance of ancient elements redeployed in new works of art, as well as the overall personalities of patrons, revealing not only their political and institutional functions but also their roles in commissioning artistic and literary works, as well as in assembling collections.
In attempting to devise a flexible and versatile system with a view to catering for a wide range of future users, the HistAntArtSI Database was conceived as needing to respond to different needs and interests and therefore presents different ways of searching through the comprehensive data it includes. Obviously the most general and straightforward way of searching the Database is through a simple word search, like a Google search limited to the contents of the database. More experienced users, however, interested in a specific area, can focus their searches by type of file, for example, to buildings or archaeological monuments: in this case, all the files of the same type can be displayed either as a table or as a display of "post-it notes". A user who is interested instead in all the evidence relating to a single urban centre can search by "Site" and by clicking on the name of the centre a file is automatically generated in which a list of all the files relating to the specific site is shown. In addition to these possibilities of free navigation which allow users to build their own sets of information, the database also has a more purely textual dimension, and may be read as a book, which enables users to follow their own specific lines of research.
At present the database is mainly being used as a research tool for the project research team, but it is planned to make it publically available on the Internet through the HistAntArtSI website at the end of 2015 (www.histantartsi.eu). In the meantime, the database files on the antiquities will complement the database of the Census (www.census.de) and will interact with the database of the Southern Italy Project of Duke University which is also under construction. Even though selected parts of the Database are already being translated from Italian into English, the PI plans to have the contents and interface translated into English as well as to introduce further technical improvements, such as a system for georeferencing. Once it is made public the HistAntArtSI Database will provide a innovative research tool for the international scientific community which will open up new research fields and encourage the growth of new interest in a region which while of fundamental importance to European culture has long been unjustly overlooked.
Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the Renaissance
Warburg Institute