Prototyping new forms of engagement with digital heritage as an approach to more sustainable tourism in Florence

Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Italian city of Florence is world-famous for its legendary Renaissance art, architecture and monuments. So it is only fitting that the city is on top of the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city attracts millions of tourists each year, an overwhelming figure for its population of 350,000, leaving its historical city center increasingly congested. All local parties and organizations recognize overcrowding as a major problem, raising burgeoning questions about the sustainability of Florenceā€™s tourism. Can spatial and temporal strategies spread visitors across heritage sites to prevent the congestion of tourist hotspots?

The streetscape of Florence is littered with impressive statues that are often taken for granted or neglected by tourists and locals. These works of art depict saints, mythical figures and famous artists and writers that are in all cases related to the history and character of the Renaissance city. Unfortunately, most of these statues are hardly signposted, leading the crowd to only  select few hotspots, but could very well help distribute tourists more evenly across residential and under-visited areas.

For four days (18-21 October 2021), the Living Pasts/Utrecht Time Machine team from Utrecht University did a residency at the Netherlands Interuniversity Institute for Art History to produce a prototype app that enables tourists to visit Florence in a more sustainable manner. 

This short documentary shows their 4-day co-design prototype development story of trials, tribulations, and the presentation of insightful findings about achieving more sustainable forms of tourism in Florence to EU-CHARM students and lecturers in Barcelona, Boedapest, Montpellier and Utrecht. 

Living Pasts/Utrecht Time Machine team members                                  

Simon Dirks (SA, Artificial Intelligence)

Tim Overkempe (SA, Liberal Arts & Science/ History & Philosophy of Science)

Shahin Nazar Kermanshahi (SA, History & Philosophy of Science)

Tessa Nauta (SA, Social Geography)

Ivar Troost (Lecturer/researcher, Education Science & Information & Computing Science)

Frans van Dam (Lecturer, Public Engagement and Science Communication)

Toine Pieters (Lecturer/researcher, Digital Humanities and Director of the Freudenthal Institute)