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Garden History

and Landscape Studies

at the Bard Graduate Center

Volume ıı | Number ı | Fall/Winter 2004/2005

computer screens and what we sense and comprehend when we make or visit gardens and move through them – and how these two means of knowing can be complementary.


he landscape historian learns to consider place both experientially as scenery and sensation in three dimensions and intellectually in terms of a fourth dimension – time. This four-dimensional approach in which an understanding of landscape in relation to the passage of time – of all earth and human history as a non- static continuum – is fundamental to the curriculum of Garden History and Landscape Studies at the Bard Graduate Center. It is also the premise upon which the creation of the BGC’s Digital Archive of Historic Landscape Sites is based. By the beginning of 2005, the first component of the archive, which has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will go online with 2,000 images of approximately 60 villa gardens. With its searchable database, this image bank, available at no cost for educational and scholarly purposes, will serve teachers and students in the field of landscape history as a virtual slide library. These images,

Since landscapes are so varied in their nature and design intent, we felt that in creating Catena it was impor- tant to have a specific focus on a landscape type (rather than on a geographical or period unit). Because of much fine recent scholarship on the design and meaning of Italian and other types of villa gardens in recent years, we decided to assemble a body of images and scholarly exege- ses related to this subject.

The value of the project lies in the creation in one place of a searchable database of images of historic villa sites that can be used for teaching in the same way that slide collections in academic continued on page 2

Restored mid-sixteenth-century ceiling fresco, Villa d’Este, depicting scenes from the Labors of Hercules, the mythological hero with whom Cardinal Ippolito d’Este is identified.This image is part of the forthcoming Digital Archive of Historic Landscape Sites.

Letter from the Editors

Virtual Villas

his fall marks the halfway point in the fulfillment of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to the Bard Graduate Center for the development Catena, a digital archive of historic landscape images. It is worth reiterating here the focus of this endeav- or and how its projected end differs from the mere offer- ing of a plethora of images similar to ones already avail- able on the Internet at no cost (as these also will be). In addition, because images are only a surrogate for reality, we hope that readers of this issue of Viewpoints will want to consider the significant dif- ference between virtual and experiential understanding – between what we see on our T

Visiting Italian Villas and Their Gardens

which are derived from period engravings of plans and perspec- tives as well as from historic and contemporary drawings and photographs, cover several periods up to the present. When those for a particular villa are combined, they constitute a palimpsest bearing the marks and erasures of time.

A group of landscape historians with individual collections of photographs and institutions with archival prints of historic villas are augmenting the content of this useful visual resource. Johanna Bauman, curator of Visual Media at the BGC, is super- vising the assembly and cataloging of digital images to be placed in a database called Catena. She is also managing the construc-

tion of a companion website that will serve as a pedagogical sup- plement in which viewers will continued on page 4


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