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Elena Chestnova


Elena Chestnova has studied architecture at the University of Cambridge and at the ETH Zurich and has worked in various fields in London, Jerusalem and Zurich. She has completed her PhD within the SNSF-Project “Architecture and Globalization of Knowledge in the 19th Century. Gottfried Semper and the Discipline of Architectural History.” Her research concentrated on the theory-construction of Gottfried Semper as a consumer and producer of popularized knowledge in London in the 1850s, in particular on the role of material culture in theory construction and design teaching. Her PhD dissertation 'History in Things. Gottfried Semper and Popularization of the Arts in London 1850-55' has been awarded the prestigious Theodor-Fischer Prize for emerging scholars by the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich in 2018. An extended and reworked version of the dissertation has been published in 2022 with Routledge as Material Theories: Locating Artefacts and People in Gottfried Semper's Writings.

Since 2017 Elena has been working on the digital edition of Semper's manuscripts developed by the USI in partnership with the ETH Zurich and funded by the SNSF. This role has provided her with an introduction into digital humanities, and her skills and interests have expanded in this direction. Since 2020 she is the project manager for digital humanities on the project and has been central to the writing of the grant application for the second phase of the project, which has been successful, providing 1.4 Mio Swiss Francs. Elena is currently developing several DH collaborations with important partners in Switzerland and abroad, including gta Digital at ETH Zurich, Swiss Art Research Infrastructure (SARI) and the Academy of Sciences in Mainz, Germany. She is active within several DH and related networks, including DHCH, DARIAH-CH, and FORS. Her interests in the DH field cover text analysis, editing of scholarly texts (TEI), and Text-As-Graph (TAG).

Since the publication of her book on Semper she has been working to expand her research in the historical field in new directions and find opportunities to bring digital and computational methods to bear on her work. She is interested in particular in the interactions between the arts and national discourses in the long nineteenth century, popular formats of knowledge about the arts, and interactions between processes of migration and dispositives of domesticity and territory in that period.