Brown University’s Digital Garibaldi Scroll Tours Italy

Garibaldi sits upon his horse wearing a broad-brimmed hat with an ostrich feather in it and an American poncho; his servant who came with him from America rides behind him. Story, J. J. (Nottingham: 1860). 1 scene; 147.5 x 258.6 cm. Reformatted digital.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] – The Brown University “Garibaldi on the Surface” project is featured again in international exhibitions.  A centerpiece in last year’s British Library exhibition, “Growing Knowledge – the Evolution of Research,” the digital scroll was recently on display in Bologna Salaborsa (November 15-30, 2011) as part of the Storia da toccare [History to Touch]: the Panorama Garibaldi at Salaborsa, and is currently on view through January 15 in the Sala del Risorgimento of Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico.  In Siena the inauguration of the Garibaldi exhibit coincided with the opening event of the International Council of Museums Conference. Several museum directors as well as the German president of the association were present with Brown’s Italian Studies Professor Massimo Riva who coordinated the display of the panorama.  Both exhibits were sponsored by Microsoft Research and included Microsoft touchscreens and displays.

Once a “moving” panorama created around 1860 by John James Story, the Garibaldi panorama is one of the few remaining examples of this type of commercial entertainment that was commonly available in the 1800s.  In 2007, with financial support from the Department of Italian Studies and Vincent J. Buonanno (Brown ’66), the Brown University Library digitized the panorama and added it to the Garibaldi/Risorgimento website.  Later in 2009 the Brown University Library in conjunction with Brown’s Computer Science Department, co-sponsored by Microsoft Research, embarked on a pilot project to exhibit the panorama with the Microsoft Surface.

Garibaldi on the Surface allows users to explore and examine this massive double-sided 270 foot linear painting depicting the life and times of the Italian liberator, along with a wide array of pre-selected historically and culturally relevant digital documents, images, web pages, video and audio narration from the Garibaldi-Risorgimento digital archive.  Researchers can zoom in and out on specific scenes, listen to a voice-over narration in both Italian and English, access embedded documents, and read explanatory notes about characters and events depicted in the panorama.

Further exhibitions are in the works. Visitors to the digital archive can retrieve additional information about panoramas and dioramas as optical devices and popular representational media in 19th-century Europe. A video about the scroll is also available online.

The Brown University Library is home to more than 6.8 million print items, plus a multitude of electronic resources and expanding digital archives serving the teaching, research, and learning needs of Brown students and faculty, as well as scholars from around the country and the world.

Contact: Jennifer Braga |  401-863-6913