Virtual Art History

Duke scholars share new teaching and research methods
June 1, 2010
Reviving ruins: Technology helps students

Reviving ruins: Technology helps students recreate ancient sites. Credit: Laura Fravel / Akara Lee.

The study of Roman baths and Franciscan churches may not seem to lend itself to computer technology. But faculty members in Duke's art, art history, and visual studies department are using sophisticated software to learn, and teach, about the ancient and medieval world, and the fit is quite natural. In an experimental class last year, they used graphic- and Web-design programs such as Google's Sketchup and Adobe's Photoshop and Dreamweaver to show students how ancient archeological sites and thirteenth-century monastic communities evolved over time.

At a conference in Chapel Hill this spring that focused on the use of technology in the humanities, Duke faculty members, including Sheila Dillon, Caroline Bruzelius, Rachel Brady, and Raquel Salvatella de Prada, presented what they consider a prototype for the use of these computer programs as teaching tools in the future. They noted that using these kinds of technology facilitates collaboration and hands-on learning for researchers and students that is uncommon in the humanities.