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April 7, 2022 | Alumni

The sensory life of Florence in 1584: Ariana Ellis named finalist in SSHRC Storytellers Challenge

By Josslyn Johnstone

A screenshot of the DECIMA program shows a drawing of Florence made in 1584. It is like a map with tiny 3D buildings.

University of Toronto alumna and doctoral candidate Ariana Ellis (BA 2015 VIC, MA 2016) has been named one of 25 finalists in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) 2022 Storytellers Challenge.

In this annual research competition, postsecondary students have three minutes, or 300 words, to share how their research is making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

Composite image: Portrait of Ariana Ellis smiling, + the storytellers logo shows 5 people gathered round a pulsating mist.
Ariana Ellis is a PhD candidate in late medieval and early modern history at U of T.

Ellis is part of the Digitally Encoded Census Information & Mapping Archive (DECIMA) team, led by Nicholas Terpstra, a professor in the Department of History and Brock University’s Colin Rose. DECIMA is a powerful mapping tool that integrates census data with a 1584 hand-drawn map, allowing researchers to uncover details about the inhabitants of 16th century Florence, social and economic trends, and the sensory life of this thriving early modern city.

“Technology has the unique ability to let us exist in the past and present at the same time,” says Ellis. “DECIMA harnesses this power to allow anyone to foster and grow their love for history. By allowing the past to embrace the present, we can use it to mold our futures.”

“Ariana, congratulations on this incredible achievement. You put your time, creative brainpower and heart into this challenge, and we’re thrilled to cheer you on to the next level,” says Nakanyike Musisi, acting chair and professor in the Department of History.

Ellis will next compete before a jury for a spot in the final five. The public livestreamed event takes place on Monday, May 16, 2022, at 2 pm ET at the Congress for the Humanities and Social Sciences.