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George Bent’s “Florence As It Was” Project Featured in Case Study and Documentary Leica Geosystems followed Bent and his team of W&L students on a day spent mapping the city of Florence.

BentGeorge-1-scaled-600x400 George Bent’s “Florence As It Was” Project Featured in Case Study and DocumentaryGeorge Bent, the
Sidney Gause Childress Professor in the Arts

George Bent, the Sidney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts at W&L, recently saw his “Florence As It Was” digital humanities project featured in a case study and documentary produced by Leica Geosystems.

Bent utilizes Leica’s 3D laser-scanning products to create FLAW’s immersive digital reconstruction of the city of Florence, Italy as it appeared at the end of the 15th century.

The documentary accompanies Bent and his team of W&L students through a day spent scanning Florence, offering a glimpse into the painstaking efforts they take to capture the city’s treasures and historical landmarks – sometimes offering new architectural theories and uncovering forgotten landmarks.

“This short documentary captures the spirit of the project, the physical and intellectual demands that often accompany cultural heritage work, and the intricacies of new technologies that have only recently been employed by specialists to analyze the material remnants of historic sites,” said Bent. “We could not have done this work without equipment and software developed by the Leica Company, which have helped make this workflow progress effectively and efficiently. My only regret is that neither of my W&L partners – Dave Pfaff and Mackenzie Brooks – nor any of the students who have assisted us in this venture, were able to be present in Florence during Leica’s filming of the work in the Palazzo Medici and the church of S. Lorenzo. Their contributions to ‘Florence As It Was’ since its origins cannot be overestimated.”

Bent, Pfaff and Brooks began their work on the “Florence as it Was” project in 2016 and Bent spent most of the 2022-23 academic year on sabbatical in Florence, where he scanned nearly 20 structures and photographed dozens of artworks to be modeled in the coming months.

The FLAW team always includes students in the project, recently receiving a $14,820 grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation to support student research work. No fewer than 20 W&L students have been involved in the project over the last seven years and their efforts helped create a searchable database of nearly 2000 geo-referenced paintings and sculptures installed in Florentine sites during the 14th and 15th centuries. A special exhibition of the computer models will be the subject of an art exhibition in the Staniar Gallery in February 2024.

Bent has been a member of the W&L faculty since 1993. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a master’s and doctorate degree from Stanford University.

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