Master theses and semester projects

Automatic transcription of Polier notebooks

Sections concerned : Digital humanities, Data science, Computer science, Environmental Sciences & Engineering, Humanités numériques (UNIL)

The Polier notebooks are a set of handwritten documents written by Jean-Henri Polier de Vernand (1715-1791), lieutenant baillival of Lausanne, under the title Livre de Raison, soit Memorial Universel. These notebooks, which total nearly 26,300 pages written between 1754 and 1791, are a precise account of the daily life of the time and of the micro-history of Lausanne. They contain a great deal of information about the economic and social history and details of daily life, such as trade or meteorology. The project aims at automatically transcribing the Polier notebooks using state-of-the-art automatic handwriting recognition (HTR) methods in order to finally unravel the mysteries of these pages. In a second step, an investigation based on distant reading and natural language processing (NLP) technologies will allow to deepen a research question on the themes of environmental, social, or economic history.

Contact : [email protected]

Archives Cantonales Vaudoises

Automatic georeferencing of historical cadastres

Sections concerned : Digital humanities, Data science, Computer science, Environmental Sciences & Engineering

From 1812 onwards, land mapping campaigns were launched throughout Europe on the model of the so-called “Napoleonic” and later “renovated” cadastre. These maps covered the largest part of Western Europe, from Spain to the Netherlands, including Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Confederation of the Rhine (Germany). The Napoleonic cadastre is thus one of the main historical sources of the 19th century and the hundreds of thousands of sheets that compose it are largely digitized. Georeferencing, i.e. spatial recalibration of the cadastral sheets, would constitute a fantastic added value for urban planning and environmental sciences by allowing large-scale studies on two centuries of territorial evolution. Within the framework of this project, the student will develop automatic methods based on computer vision techniques and graph neural networks to automate the realignment of cadastral sheets.

Contact : [email protected]

Archives du Département du Rhône et de la métropole de Lyon

Marini Project – 500 years of village history

Sections concerned: Digital humanities, Humanités numériques (UNIL), Histoire (UNIL)

The Marini project is a local history project that covers nearly five centuries of the evolution of the commune of St-Livres (Aubonne), in the canton of Vaud, between 1357 and 1838. The proposed corpus is a manual transcription which lists more than 15’000 land transactions and property transmissions over time, as well as numerous pieces of information on the typology and layout of agricultural land and buildings. It thus constitutes an exceptional source for European and Swiss rural history, which could allow to highlight the mechanics of land parcelling and their impact on the development of the modern territory. The investigation will also allow a better understanding of the evolution of the concept of land ownership between the Middle Ages and the contemporary period. In a second phase, the student will be able to develop a reflection on the valorization and representation of historical land data or on the contribution of citizen science to the process of knowledge production.

Contact : [email protected]

Musée Historique Lausanne

Haussmannian transformations in Paris during the XIXth century

Sections concerned : Digital humanities, Data science, Computer science, Environmental Sciences & Engineering, Humanités numériques (UNIL)

The Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris digitised more than 700 maps covering in detail the evolution of the city from 1836 (plan Jacoubet) to 1900, including the famous Atlases. They are of a particular interest in the urban studies of Paris, which was at the time heavily transfigured by Haussmanian transformations. For administrative and political reasons, the City of Paris did not benefit from the large cadastration campaigns that occurred throughout Napoleonic Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Therefore the Atlas’s sheets are the finest source of information available on the city over the 19th century. In order to make use of the great potential of this dataset, the information contained in the maps must be converted from its visual representation to an abstract, geometrical, form, on which to base quantitative studies. This conversion from an input raster to an output vector geometry is typically well-performed by combining Convolutional Neural Networks for pixelwise classification to standard computer vision techniques. In a second time, the student will develop quantitative techniques to investigate the transformation of the urban fabric.

Contact : [email protected], [email protected]

Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris

Automatic vectorization of the renovated cadastre of Lausanne

Sections concerned : Digital humanities, Data science, Computer science, Environmental Sciences & Engineering

At the end of the 19th century, a global will for administrative reform brought about the need to renovate the old cadastres dating from the Napoleonic era. Cadastral campaigns of cities and territories were launched by applying the best technologies of the time. The canton of Vaud took part in the movement and published in 1888 the renovated cadastre of Lausanne, a collection of more than 300 plates of high graphic quality and remarkable accuracy. It includes a complete legend that includes the use of each parcel (house, café, bakery, field, vineyard, etc.) and the owner. The automatic vectorization project aims to use state-of-the-art technologies developed in the framework of the Time Machine initiative to transform the historical images into vector maps using CNN-based semantic segmentation. For the legend, automatic document processing and handwritten text recognition (HTR) methods could also be deployed. This work would pave the way to a better understanding of a key period of Lausanne’s history that saw the birth of the city we know today. The vectorization of the document will also open new avenues of investigation for the student to explore the palimpsest of Lausanne’s history.

Contact : [email protected]

Archives Cantonales Vaudoises

Icono Lausanne – reorientation of the photographic archives of the Historical Museum

Sections concerned : Digital humanities, Data science, Computer science

The Historical Museum of Lausanne has a collection of more than 38’500 digitized images, including numerous shots of Lausanne and photographs of buildings. These archives are the keystone of the historical reconstruction of the city because they constitute a direct trace of the light of the past. In this project, the student will develop automatic methods based on photogrammetry and neural networks to match the images and infer the angle and position of the photographic shot. This work will open the possibility of directly reprojecting historical photographs onto 4D models.

Contact : [email protected]

Urban history 4D / University of Wurtzburg

Other projects

Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your own project ideas on a specific document or theme.