Recent Research Projects and Collaborations

Creating A Total Environment For The Caligula In The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

An international team directed by Frischer and his co-director, Dr. Peter Schertz (Jack and Mary Ann Frable Curator of Ancient Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts) had the goal of increasing scholarly and public understanding of one of the most important works of Roman art in a US museum: the monumental statue of the Emperor Caligula in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The VMFA statue is the best-preserved surviving portrait of Caligula. The project took advantage of new discoveries throwing light on the statue’s hitherto unknown ancient context as well as new technologies making it possible for the team to recover such key but uncertain features as the orientation of the head, which had been broken off the body; the hands, which are missing; and the colors, which can no longer be seen. We cannot understand the statue until these expressive features have been restored to it.

The project had the following goals:

  • Undertake new technical, historical, and interpretative studies of the statue;
  • Present preliminary findings at a public conference;
  • Make the final results available at no cost over the Internet. The project was generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (grant RZ-51221).

Click here to see the preliminary results of the project. The final results were published in the following monograph:

Peter Schertz and Bernard Frischer, editors. New Studies on the Portrait of Caligula in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Brill, Leiden and Boston 2020). ISBN-10 : 9004412689. ISBN-13 : 978-9004412682.

Studies in Digital Heritage

From 2007 to 2013, Frischer directed the SAVE project. The project  focused on ways of preserving and disseminating interactive 3D digital models of cultural heritage sites, monuments, and landscapes. SAVE (an acronym standing for “Serving and Archiving Virtual Environments”) tackled the hitherto unsolved problem of how creators of models could best find an outlet for peer-reviewed scholarly publication, long-term preservation and maintenance, and secure distribution of their work to end-users. The project was generously supported by the National Science Foundation (grant IIS-1014956).

A logical outgrowth of the SAVE project was creation of Digital Applications to Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, a new peer-reviewed, online journal that offers scientists the chance to publish interactive 3D models of cultural heritage artifacts along with related articles. Frischer was the founding editor-in-chief when the journal published its first article in 2013. In 2014,  Gabriele Guidi, Assoc. Professor of Reverse Engineering at the Politecnico di Milano, accepted the invitation to become the journal’s co-editor-in-chief. In 2016, Frischer and Guidi resigned from the board when the publisher (Elsevier) declined to greatly reduce the amount of money that should be charged to make articles Open Access in the journal. They then founded the peer-reviewed, Open Access journal Studies in Digital Heritage, which is published by the Indiana University Library. The journal is freely available to readers, and it has no Article Processing Fee (APC).

Uffizi-Indiana University 3D Digitization Project

In 2015, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy invited the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory to digitize in 3D and publish on the web all the ancient Greek and Roman sculptures in its collections. The project was launched in May 2016 with generous funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research of Indiana University. Frischer is Co-Director of the project with Uffizi Gallery Curator Dr. Fabrizio Paolucci. Dr. Cristiana Barondoni is the project coordinator. A team led by Prof. Gabriele Guidi at the Politecnico di Milano has offered important support.

Click here to see the progress to date.


In recent years, Frischer has collaborated with Smarthistory to create short educational videos about Hadrian’s Villa and Ancient Rome.