The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome

In 1540 Antonio Lafreri, a native of Besançon transplanted to Rome, began publishing maps and other printed images that depicted major monuments and antiquities in Rome. These images were calculated to appeal to the taste for classical antiquity that fueled the cultural event we call the Renaissance. After Lafreri published a title page in the mid-1570s, collections of these prints came to be known as the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, the “Mirror of Roman Magnificence.” Tourists and other collectors who bought prints from Lafreri made their own selections and had them individually bound. Over time, Lafreri’s title page served as starting point for large and eclectic compilations, expanded and rearranged by generations of collectors.

This symposium brings together scholars from the United States and Europe to address new directions in research on Renaissance antiquarianism and visual culture, including those making use of digital technology. The “virtual tourist” is the Renaissance viewer whose interest in Rome was facilitated by the ready circulation of the then-new technology of prints; it’s also the modern viewer, who approaches ancient and Renaissance Rome with all the opportunities and challenges afforded by computing. The symposium joins the exhibition of the same title on view September 24, 2007 – February 11, 2008 at the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago with an ambitious project to develop a systematic digital database and website for the Chicago Speculum, with high-quality images and functions that offer new ways of teaching and doing research. Visit the online collection at http://speculum.lib.uchicago.edu.

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