Modeling the past

Historical Geographical Information Systems

One of the missions of the DHLAB is to invent new tools to travel not only in space, but also through time. Would it be possible to build a kind of « Google maps » of the past, capable for representing the shape of a city or a region, several hundreds years ago? We use the methods of Geographical Information Systems to recreate not only geopolitical maps but also commercial and information networks based on historic sources.

Modeling historical and metahistorical information

The DHLAB is working on a new approach for describing the content of historical documents. Our method based on semantic technologies can be used to extract and model information contained in novels, newspapers, essays and other historic sources. Semantic information extracted from text are modeled as formalized relationships between entities. The originality of our approach consists in systematically documenting intellectual and technological processes associated with the extraction of these relationships. This permits to consider what we call fictional spaces. We develop methods to merge fictional spaces and create large ones, while still documenting every steps of this process.

3D reconstructions and procedural methods

The DHLAB works on innovate reconstruction methods for recreate lost landscapes and urban environments. We use procedural techniques to compensate for lack of information due to the sparseness of historical sources. Such techniques permit to create both 2D and 3D models based on “grammatical assumptions”. It is possible for instance to generate a “probable” architecture for a building of a particular period and style given what is know about it in terms of position in the city topology. These methods can also work for recreating probable vegetal elements given general information about historical urban ecology. Once generated the models can be integrated in any geographical information systems. Symmetrically, it is possible to mix traditional 3D modeling with procedural approaches in order to produce coherent reconstructions.