Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica Angelo Mai, ms. MA 592 (giĆ  Lambda 1.3), f. 86r, Yreos

History of IPSA

The University of Padua has played a major role in the history of modern scientific illustration. Under the influence of Pietro d'Abano's rationalism, since the beginning of the 14th century, the Paduan School was characterised by the search for scientific objectivity. Because of this approach the Paduan School produced, for the first time in Europe, a number of illuminated manuscripts including realistic botanical illustrations, detailed and realistic medical images, astronomic drawings inspired by scientific criticism, and astrological images that, although based on antique iconographic models, pointed to scientific and not merely magic astrology. As a consequence, a highly innovative tradition of scientific illustrations was developed at the University of Padua, which had large renown in Europe and deep influence on European culture. The innovation and the appeal of this imagery have to be related not only to their scientific value, but also to the their high formal level and stylistic realisation quality.

The corpus of the historical and very innovative illustrations produced in the centuries under the influence of the Paduan School needed to be informatively documented and made digitally available to researchers of the University of Padua and of other worldwide distributed research institutions also for a secure remote access through an Internet connection. For this reason the University of Padua started a multidisciplinary project aimed at the creation of a digital archive of manuscripts, incunabula, printed books, drawings, prints of images related to this new approach to scientific illustration.

The user requirements analysis for the design and development of the digital archive has been conducted from Spring to Autumn 2002 also with the cooperation of a team of final year students of telecommunications engineering which have contributed to the analysis as part of the assignments of the database course. A first complete prototype has been made available to researchers at end of March 2003, a consolidated final version, revised using the comments of the users, has been released in July 2003.

Disclosing new relationships between images is one of the main purposes of the art historical research, because it brings about further knowledge on a specific artistic period, on a painter or an illuminator, on a work of art, and so on. According to this specific user requirement, in IPSA professional researchers are provided with tools that allow to link images and to annotate them, sharing knowledge in a collaborative environment.

Due to involvement in the CULTURA project , it was decided to open the database to other categories of users, such as non-domain professional researchers, student communities and the general public. This new task required the identification of the needs, wishes and preferences of these new categories in order to define the required changes and improvements to IPSA.

The objective of the CULTURA project is to pioneer the development of personalised information retrieval and presentation, contextual adaptivity and social analysis in a digital humanities context. This is motivated by the desire to provide a fundamental change in the way digital cultural heritage is experienced, analysed and contributed to by communities of interested individuals. These communities typically comprise a diverse mixture of professional researchers, apprentice researchers (e.g. students of history and art history), informed users (e.g. users belonging to relevant societies or interest groups, cultural or author- ities) and interested members of the general public.