The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism

Transforming Visualisation in Museums: Deep Mapping for Narrative Coherence


This project undertakes ground breaking research to resolve the fundamental challenges of narrative coherence for museum audiences as they explore digital cultural atlases. As part of this investigation, the project will integrate a unique heritage dataset—the Atlas of Maritime Buddhism (Atlas)—which has accumulated historic evidence for the spread of Buddhism from India to Korea through the seaports of Southeast Asia. Its pan-Asian spatially and temporally enabled sources are significantly diverse in both type and format (e.g. archaeological materials, travellers’ accounts and historic gazetteers to name a few). The aim of the proposed research is to develop a pioneering narrative-driven deep mapping schema, an information visualisation framework for interactively exploring the narrative patterns, processes and phenomena in the Atlas. This schema will investigate narrative coherence through the experimental application of the world’s first deep mapping data browser—a navigational interface developed in a 360-degree 3D (omnidirectional) virtual environment.

The Atlas is of great academic importance as it contains evidence that counterbalances prevailing narratives which foreground the overland Silk Road, and neglect the importance of pan-Asian maritime countries and Buddhism entrepreneurship in the expansion of trade from 2nd century BC-12th century AD. Comprising multiple overlapping chronological events, the Atlas supports diverse types of historic evidence from disparate spatial locations represented by approximately 170 generalised information layers. With contributions from researchers around the world, it includes geospatial coordinates, gazetteers for hundreds of sites, images of archaeological sites and artefacts.

Funding: Australian Research Council Linkage Project.
Led by: Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, EPFL

Chief Investigators:
Lead: Prof. Sarah Kenderdine, EPFL/UNSW
Prof. Dennis Del Favero, University of New South Wales
Prof Michael Thielscher, University of New South Wales
Em/Prof. Lewis Lancaster, University of California, Berkeley
Prof. Jeffrey Shaw, City University of Hong Kong
Prof. Jianxiong Ge, Fudan University, China

Partner Investigators:
Dr. Lynda Kelly, Australian National Maritime Museum
Mr. Li Zhenhua, Chronus Art Center