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From east to west, from the invention of writing to the printer and from the first men millions of years ago to us today, stands one link between all of the aforementioned: History. How earth was before? How people lived long ago? What were the habits and customs back then?

All those, questions were only in history answer can be found.

We can also ask ourselves why we would need to know all these information: An answer here would be Human nature. Human has an innate curiosity for his history. A curiosity that our ancestors did not fail to supply!

We can found information about previous civilization and there way of live in many forms. Be it archives from a millenary civilization or archaeological discovery. An important number of people dedicate their live for this purpose. The recent computer and data processing revolution, a new research horizon came to life. This field between computer science and human sciences is known as “Digital humanities”. As you may have guessed, application of engineering and computer sciences for history purposes can take different forms. In this article, we will see how three different abstract can share the same goal while using different methods.

The Republic of Venice is a state gradually formed during the middle Ages. It is located around the actual city of Venice, in the north of Italy. As Venice is formed by a huge number of small islands by the sea, it is natural that the Venetian Republic built its political and economic power thanks to maritime trade. Nonetheless, it is conceivable that we may learn new things from studying the boats used by the Venetian. The first abstract, [1] A 3D Model Of The Venetian Galeazza adresse precisely this topic. It explains in a very synthetic way what prompted them to create a 3D replica of the Venetian galeazza, which is that era’s “masterpiece of the shipping technology” according to them. And more importantly, how they did it.

A very interesting article indeed, even more when compared to another one on a slightly different subject: [2] Digital Dunhuang: Enhancing Virtual Explorations of the Real Dunhuang.

In this second abstract, the subject of study does not repose on history books but on three dimensional work of art. As Venetian republic, Dunhuang also knew an era of great wealth thanks to its location on the Silk Road and the expansion of Buddhism. The Magao Caves, represent that era of prosperity with an exceptional amount of work of art. With time, damage can be caused to these treasure of history. A need to preserve history? This is probably one of the reason that prompted the Digital Dunhuang project described in this abstract. And here we have our biggest difference between this abstract and the first one. When one try to extract more information from non-used ones, the other try to protect existing pieces of history from the ravage of time. Also, we can find a difference in the form of the abstract. Abstract [2] is more detailed at first sight but also has an educational dimension, it shows a desire for perpetual accessibility and digital humanity progress.

Observing the comparison between these two abstract, it seems now even more interesting to compare them with a third very similar one: [3] Old Traces, New Links: Representation of Taiwan Baotu in OpenStreetMap.

We have seen extraction of data from books and preservation of data through arts, we will now take a look at another type of primordial data in history: Maps. They are very important as they retrace changes related to earth, borders and seas. Explained in this abstract, is how the open street map project works. It is based on Taiwan Baotu, a set of many highly accurate maps of parts of Taiwan, to propose in an open way to people to participate in changing, comparing and enhancing maps. Finally, the main purpose here would be sharing information.

As we can observe, these three abstract treat digital humanities and history in a form that may seem similar at first sight, but which reveal to be in the end, quite different. Nevertheless, different forms does not mean opposing idea. In fact, in the comparison of these different approach we can find an interesting contrast, a complementarity that fuse and create a whole! We each see things through the prism of our culture and education, to increase the number of these small prism is what will certainly allow us to see history through the lens of humanity.

Now, wouldn’t that diversity of thoughts and visions be the real wealth of humanity?


[1] A 3D Model Of The Venetian Galeazza

Alessandro Cavinato, EPFL, Switzerland
Beat Geissmann, EPFL, Switzerland
Konrad Robert Vandevelde, EPFL, Switzerland
Olivier Dalang, EPFL, Switzerland
Dario Rodighiero, EPFL, Switzerland

[2] Digital Dunhuang: Enhancing Virtual Explorations of the Real Dunhuang

Xundong Wang, Dunhuang Academy and Dunhuang, China
Peter Zhou, C. V. Starr East Asian Library,University of California, Berkeley, United states of America
Eugene Wang, Harvard University, United States of America
J. Stephen Downie, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, United States of America

[3] Old Traces, New Links: Representation of Taiwan Baotu in OpenStreetMap

Jheng-Peng Huang, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
National Taiwan University of Technology and Science, Taipei, Taiwan
Hao-Syong Liu, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Hsiung-Ming Liao, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan
Tyng-Ruey Chuang, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan