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Project Consortium Awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant The W&L portion of the consortium will use the funding to support the ongoing digital humanities project ‘Florence As It Was.’

George-Bent-and-Crew-2-600x400 Project Consortium Awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities GrantDave Pfaff, George Bent, project collaborator Lorenzo Vigotti from the University of Bologna (Italy), Mackenzie Brooks and the “Florence as it Was” student team

George Bent, David Pfaff and Mackenzie Brooks from Washington and Lee University are part of a consortium that was selected by The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to receive one of the organization’s Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) grant.

The consortium, headquartered at the University of Chicago’s Department of Art History, received $349,969 in total to fund a humanities project titled “Florence Illuminated: Visualizing the History of Art, Architecture and Society.” The project seeks to build a platform that will bring together data from five individual digital humanities projects focused on the cultural history of late medieval and early modern Florence.

Bent, Sidney Gause Childress Professor of the Arts; Pfaff, senior academic technologist and director of the IQ Center; and Brooks, associate professor and digital humanities librarian, lead the ongoing project “Florence As It Was (FLAW),” which will provide the visual materials for “Florence Illuminated.” The other project collaborators will contribute archival information in the form of census records, home inventories, funeral and burial proceedings and family chronicles.

FLAW is a digital reconstruction of the city of Florence, Italy, as it appeared at the end of the 15th century. It creates an interactive experience to review, inspect and visit the streets, palaces, churches, shops and offices that formed the fabric of one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Bent, Pfaff and Brooks have been working on the project since 2016, and a $41,000 subaward from the NEH grant will be used to support student workers, cover travel costs for research trips to Florence and will pay the licensing fees for software programs used to edit and publish their models.

“I think I can speak for Dave and Mackenzie when I say that we are beyond thrilled to have received news of this award,” said Bent. “Earning the support and approval of the NEH validates all the hard work that we (and more than 30 W&L undergraduates) have put into this project. We have discovered how to generate representations of cultural heritage monuments in ways that will influence current and future generations of specialists, students and amateurs alike for years to come. We know we have already impacted the way the history of art and architecture is being taught in classrooms across the country and around the world, and seeing the NEH respond so positively to our work only confirms in our minds the importance of our methodology.”

For 2024, the NEH awarded 33 HCRR grants totaling $8.9 million, which allows institutions to preserve and provide access to collections essential to scholarship, education and public programming in the humanities.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.