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Virtual Shanghai


Web site : Virtual Shanghai

Virtual Shanghai is one of the major digital humanities project of the Lyons Institute of East Asian Studies (Institut d'Asie Orientale). It started as an inquiry in the collection and use of historical photographs of Shanghai, followed by a research on cartographic representation of the city. In both cases, the projects were triggered by the newly available technologies for information, especially the Internet. Eventually, along with the tremendous transformation of the WWW, the project evolved toward an attempt to explore alternative ways to do research in urban history and to produce historical knowledge about Shanghai.

Virtual Shanghai is a research and resources platform on the history of Shanghai from the mid-nineteenth century to nowadays, even if the current focus is on the pre-1949 period. At this stage, it does not offer a comprehensive history of the city. this is our ultimate goal. Due to it experimental nature, Virtual Shanghai offers case studies on various topics through which we test the relevance and validity of our approach and instruments. There is no privileged way to visit the platform. The reader can follow various paths through the tsets of documents available on Virtual Shanghai.

The platform incorporates three types of documents: textual, visual, and cartographic sources. The objective of the project is to write a history of the city through the combined use of these various sets of sources. Each type translates into different sets of documents: essays, original documents, e-books for textual docuemnts; photographs, paintings, drawings, and visual narratives for visual sources; surce maps; e-atlas, map narratives, and a powerful GIS server for cartographic documents. The implementation of this approach relies heavily on the use of NTIC, Web and GIS technologies.

In terms of research, the platform offers various ways to step into the history of the city and follow its course at different levels over time. The different types of narrative written by the participants constitute the most obvious points of entry. Yet one can also make use of the different datasets to explore the history of the city from different angles. In terms of resources, apart from providing original textual, visual, and cartographic documents in conventional searchable databases, Virtual Shanghai is developping a powerful online cartographic tool (based on MapGuide) for both analysis and real-time mapping. In he next stage of development, all the different datasets shopuld be incorporated into a single system.

Christian Henriot, Lumière-Lyon 2 University - Institut Universitaire de France

Institut d'Asie Orientale

Last update Thursday 3 June 2010 by C. Henriot