This application results from the extension, updating and re-elaboration of a project begun over ten years ago, which the Institute and Museum of the History of Science (IMSS) has tenaciously promoted thanks also to the support of the Department of Libraries, the ICCU, the Region of Tuscany and the Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze.
The region is presented as a great "multi-centre museum", whose scientific heritage, presented in a cultural tourism key, is integrated with its treasures of art. However, the product is not intended to provide a complete census, but to testify, through a conspicuous number of examples, to the important place historically held by science in the Tuscan cultural tradition.
The objective of the application is that of informing the general public of the wealth of historical-scientific testimony existing in Tuscany, thus encouraging the development of cultural tourism interested not only in a few universally known attractions but in all of the less familiar sites, unjustly ignored by the great flow of tourists, which constitute the connective tissue from which the more famous centres have developed. Places and symbols of historic-scientific interest, not always immediately comprehensible or identifiable in the territory, have been illustrated and explained in detail, with the aim of making them more easily accessible even to a non-specialised public. The modes of displaying the historical-scientific heritage utilised in the application could be adopted for the art heritage as well, allowing information on both sectors to be combined in a single, more efficient navigation system.
The application is both an aid to planning a trip through Tuscany and a tool for virtual visits to places of historic-scientific interest. Within this context, special emphasis has been given to two giant figures of science, Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei, both of whom had deep-rooted ties with the Tuscan territory, of which important, though still little-known, traces remain.
Since the application is addressed to both the Italian and the international public, it is presented in a fully bilingual version, Italian and English.
The great mass of data collected in the last few years is impressive: there are 1.850 pages for each language, amounting to a total of 800.000 words and 4.800 pictures.
At the basis of the application are 811 descriptions of places, which furnish the elements for a first historical-scientific reconstruction. The descriptions can be reached both through accessible textual indices and through an interactive system of roadmaps and satellite maps based on Google API. The modes of visit are indicated in the paragraph containing the main identifying data (geographic area, province, commune, address, telephone number, visiting hours, access for the disabled, etc.) while some correlated web resources, organised according to their semantics, allow navigation between data both internal to the application and external to it. A basic bibliography provides a first orientation for further more detailed investigation. Frequently, there is a gallery of pictures documenting aesthetic elements and conditions of conservation.
In keeping with the new tendencies now emerging on Web 2.0, greater space has been assigned to interaction with the user in the new version of the application. Accordingly, in the descriptions of places, the user can express a vote on the usefulness of the information received. Furthermore, the geographical reference system of Google maps has been adopted, allowing the place in question to be located on one of the interactive road maps or satellite maps, which are continuously updated. Lastly, users are given the chance to create personal itineraries that can be saved on their own computers for future use, or printed out.
The index of places, which has been realised with Google API maps, not only provides access to the place descriptions, but also serves other functions: viewing the distribution of the places by means of a series of advanced filters (geographical and typological), selecting a place to display its preview and to identify, on the latter, the nearest places of interest, with indication of their distances.
The section reserved to thematic itineraries deals with various scientific themes (astronomy, botany, cartography, etc.) explored both through the sequence of places documenting its historical evolution and though significant on-line resources.
In this latest version, 52 geographic itineraries have been added, specially studied for a real visit to be made in a day; for each of them, complete road information is provided, utilising Google maps. For each itinerary, there is a version for GPS satellite navigators in various formats (GPX, ITN,CSV) to assist users in planning and carrying out trips.
As compared to the previous version, 243 biographies of scientists and illustrious personages have been added, which, suitably linked to the other articles through semantic links, create a network of navigable data. Within this network it is possible toidentify the events forming the historic context in which to insert the cultural elements and testimony of scientific interest found in the territory.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
The figure of Leonardo da Vinci is introduced with a brief biography, followed by in-depth analysis of his ties to the Tuscan territory. For this purpose, thematic itineraries illustrating Leonardo's activity in the territory have been defined. In addition, three interactive maps can be used to compare the maps of Tuscany drawn by Leonardo with present-day cartography, analysing 385 place names.Completing the Leonardian section is an animated film illustrating in detail one of Leonardo's projects for governing the waters of the Arno, as well as 31 multimedia applications, a rich array of manuscripts and a detailed chronology.
The scientific and human events in the life of Galileo Galilei, who lived many years in Tuscany, are related in a rich biography available in the form of HTML pages consultable on-line as well as in the downloadable PDF format. For this purpose, the information has been restructured for presentation in the form of a printable book. For a better knowledge of the environment in which Galileo worked, 107 brief biographies are furnished, along with 49 descriptions of Galilean places. Lastly, to make his scientific activity comprehensible to the public at large, 60 multimedia applications are provided.
Given the abundance and variety of images accompanying the application (over 4.800), an advanced system for finding the images is offered, providing for search within the texts of the captions and the filter on disciplines, typologies, place names, names of institutions and of persons. Since the quality of the images is highly varied, an automatic and manual ranking system is utilised to ensure that the most pertinent and qualitatively best images appear first in the presentation.
Accompanying the application are numerous multimedia products illustrating instruments, machines and scientific principles. Precisely linked to the descriptions of the pertinent places and personages, they are also grouped under specific indexes to facilitate consultation. In addition, there are two navigable interactive virtual reconstructions of the Stanzino delle Matematiche and the Tribune of Galileo.
The management of metadata, which represents one of the key points in the project, has been developed to favour divulgement of the contents. The metadata are offered primarily on the national portal NTC, but are of course available for all of the other institutes involved, forming a Web community. This makes it possible to furnish resources that can be utilised in integrated manner to meet different requisites, as well as in different contexts. Specifically, it is addressed mainly, but not exclusively, to historical-scientific contexts and those of tourism. From the technical viewpoint, the objective is pursued by means of an OAI server that covers all of the pages in the application, furnishing search engines with the metadata needed for correctly indexing the contents.
The data dealt with in the application require the presence of professional figures other than those engaged in producing and managing the various types of material (texts, iconography, graphics, etc.). To allow those involved to work independently and update the data easily, we have opted for a system of dynamic generation of all of the pages in the application. The system, employed in other applications produced by IMSS, centres around a relational database, from which data are extracted in the XML format and then transformed into HTML pages with an XSL style sheet. Data are inserted in the database through appropriate procedures starting from an RTF format, which can be run on all of the commonly used word processors.
In accordance with Law 9 of January 2004, no. 4, the application is fully accessible. The Web pages have been created utilising XHTML1.0 Strict and CSS2, complying with W3C specifications and validated through the automaticchecking services made available by W3C. For the Google maps, an alternative has been furnished with indexes of the places and place names.
The application is an integral part of the Cultural Tourism Network (NTC) promoted by the Ministry for Cultural Affairs. In producing the Scientific Itineraries in Tuscany, in addition to the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Region of Tuscany was also involved. A crucial support was provided by Ente Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. Certainly, this project would not have been possible without this precious collaboration, for which we are deeply appreciative.
February 29, 2008