Student Research

DECIMA is a research and teaching tool, and also a research teaching tool. In the classroom, DECIMA provides students the opportunity to explore and analyze the social world of Renaissance Florence and to develop some hands-on technical research skills. Here we feature some of the impressive research produced by students using the DECIMA.

Excellency Award Recipients

In the summer of 2018, two undergraduates affiliated with the DECIMA Step Forward module were awarded research stipends under the University of Toronto Excellence Awards program (UTEA). These students collaborated to transform Francesco Bocchi’s 1591 guide to Florence, Le bellezze della città di Firenze, into an interactive map layer. In DECIMA, Bocchi’s five itineraries have been reimagined as a top-down snapshot of the city’s artistic wealth in the late sixteenth century, and Florence itself is repopulated with works of art – linked and depicted in pop-up descriptions – that have often found new homes far from their place of origin. Work on this new layer is ongoing.


In addition, Konrad Boeschenstein, one of the two UTEA recipients, developed an original research project focusing on the socio-economic world of Cosimo I’s Accademici:

The University of Toronto Excellency Award offered us a platform to work with DECIMA for longer and more independently than would typically be possible in an undergraduate setting. I choose to ask what DECIMA could teach me about intellectual culture. I was quickly lead to make observations about print industry workers, which then pushed me to contrast them with those Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici gave jurisdiction over print-output: his Accademia Fiorentina. DECIMA allowed me to locate many of those listed in the extant membership lists. It lead me to question the way scholars have focused on only a couple of key figures characterizing Cosimo’s Accademia as socially inclusive, whereas DECIMA shows the Accademia’s cohort to have been essentially aristocratic. – Konrad Boeschenstein


STEP Forward 2018 (University of Toronto)

In 2018 three Step Forward undergraduate students worked on a variety of exciting Digital Humanities projects over the course of a semester. The students worked with PhD candidate Julia Rombough and Dr. Nicholas Terpstra to build preliminary walking routes and characters for the Hidden Florence project. Hidden Florence, created by Dr. Fabrizio Nevola and Dr. David Rosenthal, is a smartphone app that guides users on unique tours of the Renaissance city told from the perspective of historical characters. DECIMA is contributing two new walks to the Hidden Florence project. The students also attended workshops and training sessions to learn digital humanities skills and software like ArcOnline, Nvivo, Tableau, and the principles of data curation. These skills were used to create three original digital mapping projects that explore diverse themes and topics in Renaissance and early modern Florence. Follow the links below to explore these excellent research projects.


Step Forward was a pivotal experience as a student who, like most in the Humanities, rarely thought beyond the word processor and web browser. Having the opportunity to work with the DECIMA team reminded me of a reality we all know: that computers can do much of our work for us when one puts in the time to learn how. On first reading the autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, my impression was surprise at how little concern he seemed to have with glorifying his city. However, we know that civic identity was fundamental to the Renaissance consciousness. Visualizing different aspects of Cellini’s writing—like the people he mentions, their different occupations, or the places he worked—DECIMA brought Cellini’s Florence alive on my screen.” –  Konrad Boeschenstein


In my research, I was able to use the DECIMA database and interactive map to visualize the visceral human and queer experiences of early modern Florence. This digital platform allowed me to discern the significance that space and geography played in the expression of sexuality and identity performance for the contemporary person. Mapping reveals far more than cartography–it enables a new and dynamic understanding of early modern activity by tracking and examining individual life cycles at the street-level.” – Aidan Flynn



STEP Forward 2017 (University of Toronto)

STEP Forward is a Digital Humanities initiative at the University of Toronto, giving students the opportunity to work closely with graduate researchers to develop independent research projects using digital tools. In the winter term of 2017, four bright students worked with Justine Walden and Daniel Jamison to investigate possibilities for 3D Mapping of Florence and design and execute a research project about early modern Florence using DECIMA. Here we feature the award-winning profile of the Arte dei Mercatanti di Calimala by Ursula Carmichael, a senior student at the University of Toronto.

HIST4P55: Social History of Renaissance Europe (Brock University)

DECIMA has proven valuable for regular classroom learning as well. At Brock University, students in the fourth-year seminar “Social History of Renaissance Europe” used DECIMA to create spatial profiles of two occupations in the city. In these assignments students learned about socioeconomic relationships between various populations in the city. Some of the most fascinating conclusions they reached dealt with the medical professions. Here, Rachel Bedic compares male and female medical practitioners and their spatial and economic distribution in the city.

Examining the Occupations of Midwives and Medical Surgeons in Sixteenth-Century Florence Using DECIMA by Rachel Bedic

HIST497: Social History of the Renaissance (Ball State University)

Prof. Jennifer DeSilva uses DECIMA to help students understand the importance of kin and social networks in early modern Florence. On the occasion of BSU’s GIS day in 2015, Prof. DeSilva had her students create social network profiles of individuals in the quarter of Santa Maria Novella.

Stoney Robbins and Allison Orewiler produced social network maps that revealed the intricacies of friendship and family in early modern Florence, using the examples of a physician and a courtesan.

The Social Network of L’Orsolina Meretrice by Alison Orewiler

The Social Network of Maestro Andrea Pasquali by Stoney Robbins

This project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

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