The Ghetto Mapping Project

The Ghetto Mapping Project

The Jewish History Program has recently launched the Ghetto Mapping Project, a research project whose aim is to reconstruct the economic and social fabric of the Florentine ghetto, the third oldest ghetto in the world. Grand Duke Cosimo I established the ghetto of Florence in 1570, near the area of Mercato Vecchio, in the very center of the Tuscan capital. While officially erected to gather all the Jews of the Grand Duchy under the aegis of Counter-Reformational tenets, the ghetto of Florence was in fact a product of a very well planned, private real-estate investment of the Medici family.

The Ghetto Mapping Project consists of three main parts:

1. The virtual reconstruction of all the spaces in ghetto, from its foundation in 1570 to its demolition in 1888. This will be executed by elaborating and combining together into a 3D model, architectural information gleaned from detailed and comparative surveys of the ghetto drafted for the Medici. In addition to this data, this project will also incorporate archival documents, paintings, watercolors, and archaeological surveys from other Florentine collections. The ghetto is probably the  most documented neighborhood of Florence. As such, this study will provide invaluable information to scholars working on any field related to the humanities. Moreover, as one of the first examples of a planned, semi-public housing project in modern Europe, this digital initiative will also be of primary  importance to architects, urban planners, and sociologists.

2. Ghetto economy. The ghetto was a Medici property. Therefore, the entire complex, its inhabitants, and anything housed within its premises was carefully described and recorded by Medici functionaries. From an archival and documentary standpoint, the ghetto was one of the most heavily controlled areas of the city. Despite the incredible wealth of available archival sources, the ghetto has ever been studied with specific economic-financial perspective. Medici administration produced, over a period of circa two centuries, hundreds of volumes pertaining to the ghetto, which provide us with an unprecedented quantity of economic and financial information.

3. Demography and history. Along with architectural and economic information, Medici documents offer one of the richest, most exhaustive,  and chronologically most extended set of Jewish demographic data. This corpus of archival material will allow us not only to determine  precisely how many Jews lived in the ghetto in any specific period of its history, but also to trace family ties and outline genealogical trees.