Bringing post-fascist Rome to life with VR

Associate Professor Flavia Marcello in a tomb.

Associate Professor Flavia Marcello is an expert on the architecture and cultural production of the Italian Fascist period.

A Swinburne researcher has received a prestigious research fellowship to explore Rome’s history under Nazi occupation.

Associate Professor Flavia Marcello has been awarded the Balsdon Fellowship from the British School at Rome. The fellowship gives her the opportunity to travel to Italy, where she will stay for three months with fellow researchers.

There she will have access to unique documents and resources allowing her to further her research and present it utilising technologies such as virtual reality (VR).

“One of the great things about it is that you get to spend time with academics from different backgrounds, often doing similar work that’s interdisciplinary. So I could be there with a classicist, with an architect and an artist,” she says.

Putting a post-fascist regime under the microscope

Associate Professor Marcello’s research explores the Nazi occupation of Rome from 1943 to 1948 and how this post-fascist regime effected the architectural, urban and artistic aspects of the city.

This period saw the fall of Mussolini in July 1943 and ended with the constitution for a new democratic nation in 1948.

“This is often an overlooked period by many scholars and there has only been a recent resurgence of studies on the difficult heritage of the fascist era,” she says.

Associate Professor Flavia Marcello under an arch.

Associate Professor Marcello plans to travel to Rome in 2021 to commence the fellowship.

Growing up a left-wing, anti-fascist household from an Italian background, Associate Professor Marcello has long been interested in this period of history.

“I became interested in understanding what fascism really is and why my parents were so against it. I wanted to study that and many years later it really makes sense for me to study the resistance and the movement against fascism,” she says.

“Many people study Rome while it was under a fascist regime during World War II and then from 1948 when it became the capital of the new republic, but there’s a little crack in history between 1943 to 1948 where it was occupied by Nazi soldiers and in a state of civil war and madness and reconstruction. That’s what I’m most interested in.”

Bringing the past to life

As a member of Swinburne’s Centre for Transformative Media Technologies, Associate Professor Marcello is considering how the latest technologies such as virtual reality (VR) will be used to bring her research to life.

“VR can be used to replicate dark periods in history and is a way forward on how to memorialise,” she says.

“History has to crossover into the realm of lived experience and VR is a great way to make that jump.”

Associate Professor Marcello will work with the Museum of Liberation Rome on how to adapt this history into these new contexts.

She hopes to be begin the fellowship in 2021 as travel restrictions surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) lessen.

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