Naples has three millennia of history. The city, shaped by the sea and Mount Vesuvio, is in the midst of the Mediterranean Basin both from a historical and a geographical point of view. All the greatest civilizations of the Mediterranean (Greek, Latin, Spanish, Arab, Jewish) arrived in Naples and left their traces there. This rich past is still tangible in its historic centre: 17 km2, of which 10 km2 have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1995.
The year 2019 saw the official start of the ‘Naples Time Machine Project’; the beginnings of the endeavor were long before that date though. In 2008, the first steps into the use of digital technologies in research were taken. The whole project was based on a collaboration between the University of Naples Federico II (Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici – DSU/Department of Humanities) and ICARUS supported by EU funds. Focus of these early activities were written sources from the Italian Middle Ages, especially of the region of Campania. The disciplines included were palaeography, diplomatics, and the history of documentation. One of the goals of the project was to publish archival material on digital web platforms such as Monasterium.net.
Humanities and natural sciences join forces
Over time, the interdisciplinarity of the group has increased. The DSU-group, currently coordinated by Antonella Ambrosio, Professor for Palaeography and Diplomatics at the University of Naples, has started a fruitful collaboration with another research group from the same university: The Museum Centre of Agricultural Sciences/Department of Agriculture (MUSA Center), whose activities for this project are coordinated by Antonello Migliozzi. This larger research group has already come up with further skills in studying and digitizing documents, in order to reconstruct landscape dynamics in Campania. The digitized historical data on various landscape changes is now assembled in digital archives integrating GIS systems standardized at European level. The Campania region is of particular interest, as it is one of the regions with the greatest biological and cultural diversity in Europe.
Creating a continuum of cultural and biological information
The first steps of the Naples Time Machine are to acquire, organise, and spatialize the historical-archival documentation in a digital information system. In addition, to create a continuum with cadastral mapped data, homogeneously available only since 1860, and create a queryable geodatabase, we intend digitize and recover the cadastral data in the shape of registry (not mapped) before 1860 and put them on georeferenced historical maps of the same period, exploiting toponyms information. On this cartography it is intended to represent some substantial dossiers of documents and data from the Middle Ages until today, facing central themes of the history of the city and its surrounding rural landscape.
The new title of the project is now ‘Naples. Cartography and Landscape’ (Scientific responsible: Antonella Ambrosio, Antonello Migliozzi). It is a great opportunity to share with everybody the complex heritage of Naples and its surroundings. Collaborations with GLAM institutions, including the State Archive of Naples or other research groups, such as those relating to the ERC-CoGrant L.I.F.E. (a 5-year project directed by Corinna Rossi of the Politecnico of Milano, with the general scope of offer a complete set of archaeological and environmental data used to investigate the remains of an imposing Late Roman settlement and its contemporary, vast and elaborated agricultural system – https://www.life.polimi.it/), and the research trends in the Humanities Multidisciplinary Lab of UNINA (https://educazionefilosofia.wordpress.com/), are our next steps.
(From: A. Ambrosio, A. Migliozzi, Naples: the genesis of a Local Time machine, in «Insight» 2020, p. 6)
- ERC-CoGrant L.I.F.E. (a 5-year project directed by Corinna Rossi of the Politecnico of Milano)