Methodologies of historic research for heritage interpretation

This course is part of the programme
Doctoral study programme Cultural Heritage Studies

Objectives and competences

The course aims at setting up the holistic framework within the set of methods and tools of historic research in order to formulate a strategic approach that is fundamental for the theory, practice and methods of heritage conservation, management and planning.
Live analysis in situ of urban spaces ,buildings and landscape will enable students to better understand what cultural heritage means and to perceive the works for what they really are: visual testimonies of history and tradition.


No specific prerequisites. However the skills in observational drawing and sketching and shooting photos are recommended.


The course is designed to provide students with critical analysis methods and tools necessary for the research based projects development focusing on urban culture. The approach will be distinctly interdisciplinary, crossing boundaries of history of architecture, history of art, urban sociology and geography, archaeology.
- Urban theory and history
In the first part, the lectures will focus on research methods and language issues related to “urban theory and history” ,“history of architecture” and “history of art”, in particular on the specific social, intellectual and practical traditions through which these disciplines, developed as distinctive fields of investigation. Through the critical interpretation of selected bibliography the students will learn about the basic intellectual discourse and methodological trends in historic research focusing mainly on urban facts.

  • The image of the city/ reading and representing cities
    In the second part the lectures will present an overview on the evolution of urban representation: (historical cartography, diagrams, maps, illustrations, ICT). The urban transformation and growth will be though explored through the analysis of different historical and contemporary representational means (iconographical and written). The aim is to train the critical interpretation of collected data for the recognition of historic urban and landscape values as an efficient tool for the protection, planning and management of heritage.
  • Urban transformation & conservation challenges
    The third part will be characterized by illustration and comparison of some key episodes. Participants will gain understanding on how a single historic episode may act as an example-paradigm for the understanding of a wider set of social, economic, artistic and urban facts and practices.

Intended learning outcomes

Students will be trained to critically:
- to structure and use a wide range of sources (archival research, organize data, conduct analysis) in order to understand the projects, transformations and evolution of space.
- use the historical methods for the interpretation of the cultural heritage.
- analyze, represent and communicate the values of the architectural works within specific historical and urban context;
- outline working context space and time references together with the biographical notice of the artists and patrons
- critically interpret the reading list of the course


• Deborah Howard, The architectural history of Venice, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT) 2005;
• Bronwen Wilson, The World in Venice. Print, the City, and Early Modern Identity, Toronto Buffalo London, University of Toronto Press, 2005;
• Hilary Ballon, David Friedman, Portraying the City in Early Modern Europe: Measurement, Representation, and Planning, in The History of Cartography, 3.1: Cartography in the European Renaissance. 1 / edited by David Woodward. - Chicago [etc.] : The University of Chicago press, [2007];
• Built city, Designed City, Virtual city. The Museum of the city, edited by D. Calabi, Roma, Croma, 2013;
• Architecture, Art and Identity in Venice and its Territories, 1450-1750. Essays in Honour of Deborah Howard, edited by N. Avcioglu, E. Jones, Surrey, Ashgate, 2013.

Additional specific readings will be suggested during the lectures.


Based on assignments evaluation and public presentation of research. 50/50

Lecturer's references

Elena Svalduz is an assistant professor of History of Architecture at the Università degli Studi di Padova. In addition to articles on early modern Italian architecture and urban history, she has written Da castello a “città”: Carpi e Alberto Pio (2001); edited L’ambizione di essere città. Piccoli, grandi centri nell’Italia rinascimentale (2004); and co-edited Il palazzo dei Pio a Carpi. Sette secoli di architettura e arte (2008), Il borgo delle Muneghe a Mestre. Storia di un sito per la città (2010), and Il Rinascimento italiano e l’Europa, vol. VI, Luoghi, spazi, architetture (with Donatella Calabi, 2010). She teaches (with Alessandro Pattanaro, spring, fall 2013) “Art and Architecture in Renaissance Venice” at Venice International University (VIU).

Svalduz received a PhD in the History of Architecture from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (now Università Iuav di Venezia), after which she worked as adjunct professor at Venice International University (VIU), the Università Iuav di Venezia (on the Faculties of Planning and Architecture), and the Università degli Studi di Padova (on the Faculties of Engineering and Liberal Arts).