Venice has a history which is one of the most well-documented and intact of all societies to date. Each meticulously scribed will, trade contract, marriage license, cargo statement and civil minutes still sit on over 80 km of shelf space in the State Archives. The records were originally brought together into one place Venice in 1822 C.E., with documents dating back to the 7th century C.E.. Slowly, these books are becoming digitally transcribed, and this extracted information allows for novel opportunities. Presently, the digital archives are being compiled and posted on the Archivio di Stato di Venezia's on-line database, which are available only in Italian at the moment.
As more details of Venetian history are set into place, it will eventually become possible to trace specific individuals through the duration of their lifetime. Where did one live? Travel to? Endeavour in? Our curiosities come to beg the question: how deep can we get into the past of another?
But can we begin to augment a representative reality of one from the past? Researchers and engineers are already dreaming of pushing this one step further. In the TED talk below, Frederic Kaplan proposes the Venice Time Machine, with the aim of creating a historical and geographical simulation of the Republic. Can we recreate the history of an empire's existence over 1000 years?
Ted Talk: Frederic Kaplan, "How to Build An Information Time Machine"
With this type of modern archeology, how much can we really learn from the past? Shakespeare has become close to immortal through with the vast publication of his writing. However, it is his mostly chosen, public words that have continued on. How much of our understanding of his art would be heightened by knowing more of his daily receipts and tax claims?
We can try to recreate what life was like for an individual, but how can we recreate the creative spirit that drives culture? What is it exactly that we are searching for in these vast stacks of information?