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20
DigiCULT
A F
AMILY
R
EUNION
F
rom the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries,
the Este family made Ferrara a cultural capital of
Renaissance Italy.Their efforts as patrons of the arts
ensured that the Este Court was at the centre of one
of the greatest periods of artistic expression in Eu-
rope. As their influential reign came to an end, the
massive collections they had amassed began to be
dispersed.Today, many of the works of art - painting,
sculpture, coins, tapestries, drawings, musical instru-
ments, and the like - both commissioned by and
collected by the Este family, reside in the world's
great museums.The Este Court Archive project
aimed to engage a community of professionals and
the power of the World Wide Web to re-unite this
great artistic legacy in the only way possible -
virtually. [1]
The project was initiated by the Ferrara Castle
Museum. At the heart of the project is the desire
to expose the vast body of knowledge known about
the Este family and their art patronage activities.
Research about the Este family is vast, but very little
of it resides in a commonly held location to be
maintained and used by the professionals working
with it on a daily basis.With this idea in mind, the
museum set out to bring together experts in the
fields of art history, and library and information
science, to develop a new way of collecting, sharing
and presenting scholarly information related to the
Este family.The project was managed by the Ferrara
Castle Museum, with co-organising partners the
Musée du Louvre, Národní galerie v Praze (National
Gallery, Prague), Staatliche Kunstsammlungen
Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Paintings
Gallery, Dresden), and the Visual Information
Technology Lab (VIS.I.T.) of the Consorzio
Interuniversitario (CINECA). Other affiliated
partners included the Istituto dei Beni Culturale
of the Emilia-Romagna region, and the Hermitage
Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. Angela Spinazzé
provided expertise as information architect for the
project and was responsible for the database design,
standards and controlled vocabulary implementation,
and data entry guidelines.
The prototype phase of the project ran from
November 2001 to November 2002.This phase was
funded under the European Commission's Culture
2000 programme, and had a total project budget of
293,369.
T
HE
V
IRTUAL
C
OLLECTION
T
he design and development of a virtual
collection of art objects is nothing remarkable
these days.There are many such attempts made each
year involving any number of museums, universities
and software providers.What most do not attempt,
however, is to challenge traditional methods of shar-
ing expertise.That is what the Este Court Archive
T
HE
E
STE
C
OURT
A
RCHIVE
-
A C
ASE
S
TUDY ON
V
IRTUAL
C
OLLABORATION IN
A
RT
H
ISTORY
By Angela Spinazzé
Figure 1: Hydra, a silver coin minted by
Ercole I d'Este in 1493, serves as the
project emblem.
Digicult_THI5_JS_090104 09.01.2004 14:33 Uhr Seite 20