Digital Projects



Project Aims and Overview:

The Renaissance is commonly referred to as the rebirth of antiquity. But to what extent do the Ancient World and the many versions of the Renaissance (e.g. Northern European, French, Italian, etc.) converge or diverge?


This semester we will create electronic resources with a two-fold focus. Our principal aims are to learn about:

  1. Issues concerning Craftsmanship, Production, Trade and Exchange in the Ancient World, by which I mean Egypt to the Ptolemaic period, South and South East Asia, Eastern Zhou to Southern and Northern Dynasties, Achaemenid Persia to the Sasanians, and Classical and Late Antiquity (i.e. Greek, Roman, early Christian); eastern and western cultures from prehistoric times through to the ninth century CE


  1. Renaissance re-interpretations of Antiquity. Bramante designed his 16th century Tempietto of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome as a reliquary to mark the location of St Peter’s crucifixion. The ‘little temple’ incorporates element’s from temples (e.g., the circular temple of Vesta in the Forum Romanum; a Roman variation on the Doric order borrowed from the Colosseum) and early Christian circular martyria. However, Renaissance artists and architects re-interpreted earlier models to express the ideals and tastes of the High Renaissance. For example, Bramante paired pilasters with columns – a Renaissance variation – to accentuate the radial nature of the building. This was done to reinforce the perfect geometry of the circular plan to honour the perfection of the divine.


How did such ancient re-interpretations advance Renaissance goals? What roles did they play socially? How and why were they important to

Renaissance ideals?


Production and Trade in the Ancient World:

The website is entitled ‘Production and Trade in the Ancient World’ and this semester we will research digital resources from antiquity in service of our study of how Renaissance art reinvented antiquity. One of our goals is to curate electronic sources which are part of the scholarly community. Although they are already available, we will make them more easily navigable and accessible to scholars, students, the broader WSU community and the general public. Think of the curating process as a way of demonstrating your own understanding of Renaissance art. We will create resources with full cultural narratives, community records, and careful descriptions. All of the metadata that goes into making a thorough Mukurtu archive requires the application of analytical skills and interpretation.


In addition to contributing to the WSU curriculum, another project goal is preservation. There are a number of disparate sources – with varying qualities, levels of accessibility and ease of use – which document, explain and illustrate ancient technologies. I have designed this compilation website with interactivity so that it complements material covered in class.


The sources address production in the ancient world with sources ranging from ancient techniques still used as models for existing production (such as glass blowing, lost-wax bronze casting and book-binding) to uncommon or extinct media and production techniques (such as making chain mail, ivory carving, mosaics, frescoes, etc.).


You are in a position to learn the structure of the website, gain key digital literacy skills and to research and contribute to developing the content of this site for a local and international audience.


You will find a handful of examples to establish a framework with which you will research resources and add scholarly content.


We will have tutorials and workshops at the Centre for Digital Scholarship and Curation, in the Holland and Terrell Library.


Initial Reading Assignments:

We will be using Content Management System (CMS) called Mukurtu developed at Washington State University. Mukurtu has an interesting history, developing in response to cultural needs which you will read about. As you start to learn about Mukurtu, think of our class as a community.


  1. Adding Digital Heritage Items:
  2. Adding Media:
  1. What is a Community:
  2. Cultural Protocols:
  3. General How to & FAQs:


Research – Focused Searches:

The task I set myself was to find resources on one broad topic, ‘numismatics’. The broad term search for coins was far too broad. I, therefore, suggest you focus on a specific period (e.g. Celtic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine), region (e.g. modern France/ Roman Gaul) and/or time period (e.g. 312-324 CE). Also consider specific technical terms related to production (e.g. blanks, dyes, obverse and reverse).


Sample Assignments:

We will have a handful of interconnected assignments that are conducted over the course of the semester. Each assignment builds on the previous one, so it is important that you keep up!


Your project will include a combination of the following: a number of maps, images, bibliographies; analysis, organisation and presentation of the evidence in service of an argument; individual research; group work.


  • Research Questions: Formulate a research question about a particular medium and technique by which it was made. (You might have one primary question and a couple of sub-questions.) What kind of information can be gleaned through this study? Consider how to limit your study geographically and chronologically. For example, if I chose to focus on the defacement of ruler portraits on late Roman coins (principal research focus) I might have questions for study concerning production and techniques involved in making, context and physical alterations (sub-questions for study).


  • Bibliography and Information Literacy: How do you determine the criteria to select a credible source? For example, consider the differences between the following websites: museums, universities, blogs, documentaries, etc.
    • Primary sources (Images and Texts)
    • Secondary sources


  • The State of the Field: What are popular debates on this topic? Are your research questions long established and understood? Controversial? What kind of contribution can your study make to the field? Is it relevant to the field?


  • Data: Gather visual examples. What kinds of data is available? Which sources are credible? Why? Which categories can you find? Which categories would you wish to find? Which are missing? For example, if you look for ‘coins’ you will soon find this category and term are far too broad. How would you narrow your search to find specific defaced vs. non-defaced imperial images?


  • Production: How were coins made? Why were their images important? How widely were they circulated?


  • Trade: How widely did coins circulate? [= a map] Did coins made in modern day Rome, Italy, e.g. stay in the country? Did they travel much further? What does this suggest about the social meaning and messages conveyed on coinage?


  • Context: Where is this evidence found [= a map], which mints are represented [= map], which emperors coins were found and where? In what contexts (e.g. wells, latrines, cemeteries)? [= image].


  • Physical Alterations to Imagery: I would also look at the physical treatment of the coins, e.g. mutilating images, crossing out names or cutting coins [= images]


  • Synthesis: Now that you have addressed all of the above areas, take a step back and consider the broader picture.
    • Consider your specific material iteration or subset with respect to the larger material (e.g. numismatics in relation to metal overall or carved glass with respect to glass more broadly).
    • Consider variations to do with geographic and chronological issues.
    • Did Renaissance artists need the guise or ‘antiquity’?
    • Was the Renaissance in fact ‘the rebirth of antiquity’? Or was it something else entirely?


N.B. We will discuss copyright. Whilst linking to material is always okay, taking files – even scholarly publications – may not be acceptable. Sharing JSTOR articles publicly, for example, could cross into questionable legal territory.