Frischer Consulting

Professor Bernard Frischer



Frischer's research career reflects his interest in interdisciplinary approaches and has included studies in the literature, philosophy, art history and archeology of Greece and Rome. He is the  author or co-author of seven books, including Shifting Paradigms: New Approaches to Horace's Ars Poetica (1990), Allan Ramsay and the Search for Horace's Villa (2001), The Sculpted Word: Epicureanism and Philosophical Recruitment (print edition, 1982; revised e-book, 2006), Beyond Illustration: 2D and 3D Technologies as Tools for Discovery in Archaeology (2008), and Making History Interactive. Proceedings of the 37th CAA Conference, March 22-26, 2009, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA (2010). From 1997 to 2003, Frischer has directed the excavations of Horace's Villa, a project sponsored by the American Academy in Rome and the Archeological Superintendency for Lazio of the Italian Ministry of Culture. He co-edited and made major contributions to the two-volume final report, published by ArchaeoPress (Oxford) in 2007. Since 2007, he shifted his attention to Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. His major research interests have been in the areas of digitizing sculpture, Virtual Worlds, and online publication of interactive 3D models of cultural heritage artifacts.

Starting in the early 1980s, Frischer has also been actively involved in the new field of digital humanities. In 1985, he received a grant from the Getty Trust to create the world's first remotely accessible library of Greek and Latin texts. At a conference held at Apple Computer in 1986, he gave a paper (published in 1988) in which he proposed creation of a digital model of ancient Rome. The first version of the model, known as "Rome Reborn," was publicly exhibited in 2007. In 1987-88 he served as the Faculty Director of the UCLA Humanities Computing Facility, one of the earliest centers for digital humanities at a major university. In the 1990s, Frischer published a series of papers applying stylometrics to problems of Greek and Latin literary prose. In recent years, he has directed or co-directed projects to publish to the Internet a high resolution image of the Monastic Plan of St. Gall; and to create 3D models of sites such as Port Royal (Jamaica), Santiago de Compostela (Spain), and Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia, USA).


Recent Research Projects and Collaborations

CREATING A "TOTAL ENVIRONMENT" FOR THE CALIGULA IN THE VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS: An international team directed by Frischer had the goal of increasing scholarly and public understanding of one of the most important works of Roman art in a US museum: the monumental statue of the Emperor Caligula in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The VMFA statue is the best-preserved surviving portrait of Caligula. The project took advantage of new discoveries throwing light on the statue’s hitherto unknown ancient context as well as new technologies making it possible for the team to recover such key but uncertain features as the orientation of the head, which had been broken off the body; the hands, which are missing; and the colors, which can no longer be seen. We cannot understand the statue until these expressive features have been restored to it. The project had the following goals: (1) undertake new technical, historical, and interpretative studies of the statue; (2) present preliminary findings at a public conference; and (3) make the final results available at no cost over the Internet. The project was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (grant RZ-51221). Click here to see the results of the project.

HADRIAN'S VILLA: The Roman emperor Hadrian (reigned: 117-138 CE) built a large government retreat east of Rome at Tivoli. Today, the well-preserved ruins are a World Heritage Site. The Digital Hadrian's Villa Project, directed by Frischer in partnership with Prof. John Fillwalk (IDIA Lab, Ball State University), created a website documenting the state of the site today as well as an executable Unity application in which the ruins were restored to their ancient appearance. The digital simulation is freely available, upon request, to teachers and scholars. The project was generously supported by a private donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) and by the National Science Foundation (grant IIS- 1018512). Through a new grant (2013-14) from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the component parts of the villa (Canopus, Maritime Theater, Piazza d'Oro, etc.) will be made available from the project website on freely downloadable Unity web players. Click here for a short video about the project.


KHAN ACADEMY: In recent years, Frischer has collaborated with Smarthistory at Khan Academy to create short educational videos about Hadrian's Villa and ancient Rome.


RECONSTRUCTING CITIES FROM PHOTOGRAPHS: Frischer was co-principal investigator of a project led by University of Washington Computer Scientist Steven Seitz to produce extremely detailed and accurate 3D geometry and appearance (BRDF) models at city scale from online digital photo collections. The challenges were great: the scale is huge (millions of photos), the diversity is enormous given the range of viewing conditions across time of day and weather, and the properties of urban scenes include low-texture surfaces, reactive and transparent materials, and repeated structures that challenge existing reconstruction algorithms. The investigators addressed these challenges with the aim of reconstructing contemporary Rome and of linking the model to historic views by artists and early photographers as well as to the "Rome Reborn" model of the ancient city. The project was generously supported by the National Science Foundation (grant IIS- 0963657). Click here for a short video showing some of the results of the project.

ROME REBORN: Frischer directs this collaborative research project between the Universities of Virginia, UCLA, the University of Bordeaux-3, the University of Caen, and the Politecnico di Milano. The goal is to create 3D digital models illustrating the urban evolution of Rome from the first settlements in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1000 BCE) to the depopulation in the city in the middle of the sixth century CE. The present focus of research is Rome Reborn 2.0, a model of the city as it appeared in 320 CE. For more information, click here. For a video animation of the latest version (2.2) of the model, click here.

SAVE and Digital Applications to Archaeology and Cultural Heritage: This NSF-sponsored project directed by Frischer focused on ways of preserving and disseminating interactive 3D digital models of cultural heritage sites, monuments, and landscapes. SAVE (an acronym standing for "Serving and Archiving Virtual Environments") tackled the hitherto unsolved problem of how creators of models could best find an outlet for peer-reviewed scholarly publication, long-term preservation and maintenance, and secure distribution of their work to end-users. The project was generously supported by the National Science Foundation (grant IIS-1014956). The climax of the SAVE project was creation of Digital Applications to Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, a new peer-reviewed, online journal that offers scientists the chance to publish interactive 3D models of cultural heritage artifacts along with related articles. Click here for more information.



Last updated: July 3, 2013.


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