Reviewed April 2019
Allison Olsen, Digital Archivist
Architectural Archives, Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
Digital Serlio Project is a web based digital humanities project that connects digital captures of Sebastiano Serlio’s published and unpublished work from the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library (Columbia University) collections with modern scholarship. The project was directed by Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library at Columbia University, with numerous institutional and international collaborators including the Columbia University Libraries, Department of Art History & Archaeology, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and the Italian Academy (Columbia University); University of Bologna; and the Ecolé nationale des Chartes.
Hosted on Avery Library’s website, the Digitial Serlio Project uses an array of open access technology and discovery tools including Google Scholar, Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and IIIF protocols, organized through and linked from a simple website, leveraging the best tool for each section. On Domestic Architecture, Serlio’s unpublished manuscript acquired by Avery in 1924, is digitized and viewable through Columbia Libraries Digital Collections Platform. The link Serlio Manuscript takes the user to a refined search of just the manuscript. From there, the user can browse through the book in page order, and click in to individual pages. The page view is well laid out, with all the important information clearly identifiable, such as full metadata, image download, and how to order a reproduction. The high-resolution images are striking, and the viewer options enable the user to zoom and pan the page, and read all of the text. The user can easily move on to the next page within the page view by clicking through to the next search result in the upper left.
The only downside to having On Domestic Architecture within Columbia’s entire Digital Collections Platform is the absence of the search functionality created by clear and consistent metadata. If one tries to search by keyword, the search will pull from all of the collections on the platform, resulting in the Serlio results becoming buried. However, this does not pose an insurmountable problem as the book consists of 90 images; presumably most users will browse through the pages. Serlio’s published works are in a different section of the site entitled Published Editions. The editions are chronologically listed with links to view them at Internet Archive. The book viewer on Internet Archive is great, with many ways to customize your experience, including audio of the book text. Along with the digitized material, the site presents a transcription and translation of the book, which are shown side by side in a downloadable pdf. Though this may appear simple, the transcription was created using Getty Scholars’ Workspace, a toolset that consolidates research and communication tools with digital surrogates to support collaboration in art historical research. Furthering the analysis of On Domestic Architecture is the Essays section, which provides downloadable pdfs of scholarly work related to the book. These resources provide the deep content necessary to support the use of the digitized Serlio publications in research and university courses.
Though the best tool was used for each task, most content is on different sites or in pdfs, occasionally creating a disjointed feel. The Digitial Serlio site is located within the website for Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, which is itself a subsite of the Columbia University Libraries website, meaning the project does not have its own visual or web identity. Regardless of these factors, the Digital Serlio website is a great example of how to integrate multiple discovery and technological tools to build an engaging digital educational resource that will be highly useful for scholars of architectural history and the Renaissance.