Simon Lewis Sullam on making a digital history of the Ghetto

Simon Lewis Sullam gave a rapid introduction to the history of the Ghetto. The Ghetto was established in 1516 and opened in 1797 (after the arrival of Napoleon). At night, the Ghetto was closed. The Ghetto Nuovo is the most ancient part of the Ghetto. Buildings are extremely high (the skyscrapers of Venice) because the limited extension of this area pushed people to build additional levels of each houses.

Quoting William G.Thomas III, Simon Lewis Sullam explained that digital history permits to create a framework for people to experience, read, follow and arguments about a historical problem. Narratives still play an important role in this new field, even if they become micro-narratives. Indeed, thanks to the archives, one can create shorter narrative, down to the live of an individual.


They are different ways of approaching of approach digital history.

Quantitative approaches, based for instance on demography can be done. Birth and death registers and census can be used. A 1797 census exists, when the Ghetto was opened.

Prosopographic approaches present the biography of a group built through statistical data.

Social Network analyses permit to reconstruct links and relationship between a group of persons based on correspondences, memories, diaries. This permits to create clusters of relationship and classify the different relations.

Some efforts in visual reconstruction are currently conducted to recreate the Ghetto in 3d (see below). What is the role of these reconstructions for the historians? Are they useful? Historians have different opinions on this matter. Digital history introduces a spatial turn. It offers the opportunity to make explicit some aspects of the past.

Microhistories focus on the life of particular individuals. Simon Lewis Sullam takes the example of the autobiography of Leon Modena. With this kind of text you can reconstruct many daily life details of a given moment in the past. You can also reconstruct the languages of past based on such kinds of document. Audio reconstructions of the past could even be possible. However, one must pas attention to fact that most remaining documents are not necessarily representative of the language of their time.

Simon Lewis Sullam discussed also the relationship between these initiatives and memory and the way to communicate this kind of research to larger audiences.

3D Models of the Ghetto:

The presentation was followed by a visit of the ghetto.


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