PUblic REnaissance: Urban Cultures of Public Space between Early Modern Europe and the Present is a three-year project funded by the Humanities in European Research Area (HERA), through the ‘Joint Research Programme’, Public Spaces: Culture and Integration in Europe. Our project involves researchers from universities in Italy, Germany the Netherlands, Spain and the UK (see ‘Project Team’). The HistoryCity title we have chosen for this website is designed to underline the often overlooked or obscured histories we aim to reveal for Exeter, Valencia, Hamburg, Deventer and Trento.

The central concept of our project is that of a “Public Renaissance”, by which we intend to examine both the urban cultures of public space in the early modern era, and to set this into dynamic dialogue with the recently invigorated discourse around the agency of public space in shaping contemporary events.

By proposing a cross-chronological enquiry that sets the relatively remote formative period of many European cities into dialogue with the contemporary world, we explore and reveal how the past is inscribed in the material culture of the public spaces we still inhabit, and how these contribute to shaping actions and events in the present. Our project considers the early modern period (c. 1450–1700) in the urbanised heart of Europe, with particular attention to case examples between the Netherlands (Deventer), Germany (Hamburg), Spain (Valencia), Italy (Trento) and England (Exeter).

Working with an interdisciplinary team of architectural, social and cultural historians, in collaboration with non-academic partners from the museum/heritage sector, and shaping our research agendas in dialogue with contemporary planners, architects and policy-makers, we will probe the continuities and ruptures that shape urban spaces of the past in relation to contemporary urban interaction. In addition to primary archival research methods, we have worked with locative media technologists to create five HistoryCity smartphone apps that enable an engagement with histories of place, to propose an innovative place-based research methodology. While historical enquiry is at the heart of the project, through digital tools and interaction with regional city museums, we are communicating the memories and meanings of public space in European cities.

Our project brings together researchers from a number of universities (see ‘Project Team’) and museums (see ‘Partnerships’). We have worked with regional technology and creative economy businesses (Calvium Ltd., Bristol) to create our apps, and will promote these in collaboration with local partners, including city council tourism offices.

In addition to our research outputs – represented in this website and publications – we are also exploring the wider application of our research processes through development of platform that will allow other researchers to create similar apps to present their research, but also for teaching purposes.

If you would like to discuss making another HistoryCity app, or using this approach in university teaching, get in touch with the Project Leader, Prof. Fabrizio Nevola. Contact details for other team members can be found following the links in ‘project team’.

Follow us on twitter @HistoryCityApps