Matthew Brennan, a research faculty member and an associate instructor at the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, has been awarded a prestigious 2019-20 Rome Prize by the American Academy in Rome.
Rome Prize winners are selected annually by independent juries of distinguished artists and scholars through a national competition. Brennan was honored with the Booth Family Rome Prize in the category of historic presentation and conservation for his work in the 3D digitization of the Accademia at Hadrian’s Villa and its digital preservation.
“The Rome Prize is a great opportunity to totally focus on my dissertation work, while at the same time being just 30 minutes from the subject of my study—Hadrian's Villa—rather than a transatlantic flight away,” Brennan said. “This will make on-the-ground study of the archaeology and architecture, obviously, incredibly easy. It will also allow me to take trips throughout Europe to visit and study other museums and sites that might help in my work. Furthermore, the other fellows at the American Academy are all the best artists and scholars in their respective fields, so being able to interact and collaborate with them on a daily basis is an incredible experience.
As part of the Rome Prize, Brennan will spend nearly a year at the American Academy in Rome where he will be provided with housing, meals, a private student work space, and a stipend approaching $30,000.
“I have been visiting Rome regularly for work, pleasure, and study since 2008,” Brennan said. “It is my favorite city and one of the few large cities in which I could always see myself being happy living. So, it's quite exciting, both on a personal and professional level, to have the opportunity to spend a year there. I plan to undertake a three-dimensional survey of the Accademia, which is on a privately owned portion of the site, using digital photography to create a highly-accurate 3D model. This 3D model can then be used by scholars and the public to virtually visit and study the archaeological site using a virtual reality headset.
Brennan also serves as the technical director for the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory at IU under Professor of Informatics Bernie Frischer. The VWHL uses 3D digital technology to capture and model artifacts and archeological sites to be preserved and restored to their former brilliance.
“Matt Brennan is the interdisciplinarian par excellence,” Frischer said. “Along with his impressive technical know-how, he has become a well-trained art historian, and he has shown that he knows how to take 3D digitization beyond mere illustration and make it a tool for new insights and discoveries. Matt’s career shows that the arts and humanities are compatible with STEM. He exemplifies in a new way Leonardo da Vinci's old Renaissance ideal of putting art, science, and technology in service of documenting, interpreting, and celebrating human cultural achievement at its best.”