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Engineering Historical Memory (EHM). Theories and Practices (2007-today)

Tuesday, March 3, 2020, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

ABSTRACT. EHM is constituting an open-access repository for the multilingual and transcultural study of Afro-Eurasian people between 1205 and 1533 to facilitate the overcoming of linguistic obstacles and cultural barriers in today’s scholarship. EHM makes available to online users a selection of primary historical sources that are for the first time interactively highly-cross-linked both one each other and to mashups of relevant secondary literature. Dr Andrea Nanetti first theorized Engineering Historical Memory (EHM) as a Visiting Scholar at Princeton University in 2007. EHM is an ongoing research project that aims to develop and experiment aggregation apps for the (re)organisation and delivery of global historical knowledge in the digital age. EHM uses pre-modern Afro-Eurasia (1205-1533) as a case study for interactive global histories. Currently Dr Nanetti runs EHM in LIBER (Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Bookish and Experiential Research), which is a laboratory that he established at the School of Art, Design and Media of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU-ADM) in January 2019, and since then he is its Director. At NTU Singapore the laboratory is run in collaboration with the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (NTU-SPMS), the School of Computer Science and Engineering (NTU-SCSE). For more information, on the research project in which this digital exploration was born, reference can be made to an article published online on NTU Singapore Pushing Frontiers Magazine. The project was reviewed on the Microsoft Research Blog “because of its unique and successful interdisciplinary collaboration” (Winnie Cui), and on PLOS for its open-society and non-commercial perspective.


The current focus of the project is to develop and test tools (technologies and processes) that can be readily adopted by all users to visualize high volumes of data through maps, timelines, tag clouds, and/or interconnected graphs on different scales. The aim is to overcome the linguistic and cultural obstacles of historical research in a transcultural (re)reading of primary sources and secondary literature for the pre-modern history of Afro-Eurasia (1205-1533). Together, the results of these research practices provide tools and solutions to facilitate, in the study of historical big data, the transition from top-down approaches (based on the application of theories) to modelling based on agents and mathematical and algorithmic simulations directly related to the data of primary sources. This approach provides scholars with visualisations of multilingual and multimodal databases of primary sources and secondary literature to more quickly and more thoroughly penetrate the fundamentals of previously accumulated knowledge of places, people, things, and events in the historical landscape. The project shows how historiographies and cartographies developed by different cultures in various languages can together shed light on the Afro-Eurasian continent, its people, their interactions along intercontinental communication networks by sea and by land, as they were first identified by the German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen (1833-1905) in his magnum opus China (1877-1912).



Dr Andrea Nanetti is a historian by education with a 30-year experience in theories, methods, and practices for the study, conservation and restoration of historical sources (e.g., chronicles, maps, travel accounts, archival documents, paintings, archaeological sites, museum settings, historical buildings). His current research explores AI solutions to overcome linguistic obstacles and cultural barriers in the domain of heritage science. He is the founding director of LIBER (Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Bookish and Experiential Research) based in the School of Art, Design and Media of Nanyang Technological University Singapore, plays multilingual editorial roles, and is member of numerous international-conference committees including Culture and Computing, VSMM, SOTICS, and CCS. He gave 33 keynotes for international conferences (10 in the last three years).

Dr Nanetti lives with his family in Singapore, in the Nanyang Technological University campus, where he serves as Tenured Associate Professor and Associate Chair (Graduate Education) at the School of Art, Design and Media with a courtesy appointment at the School of Humanities (History Programme), Senior Research Team Member at the Complexity Institute, Member of the NLP Group, and Fellow of the Nanyang Technopreneurship Center.

Internationally, he currently serves on the selection committee of the Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity (Paris University, funded by the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation), and is a Member of the College of Professors of the Graduate School at the Department of Architecture of the University of Florence. He serves also the domain of heritage science as Permanent Member of the Committee for the Publications of the Sources for the History of Venice, Founding Co-Director (International Relations) of the International Research Centre for Architectural Heritage Conservation at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and as Founding Member of the Board of Directors of the Maniatakeion Foundation (Athens). Recently he co-curated with Tiziana Lippiello and Angelo Maggi the international exhibition “Venice and Suzhou: Water Cities along the Silk Roads” (Venice, March-April 2020; Suzhou, May 2020; Dubai, November 2020).