Asterix and Digital Map
For one night every year, research centres around Berlin throw open their doors for Der Lange Nacht Der Wissenschaften, or Long Night of the Sciences. From 5pm until midnight, Berliners can visit the labs, offices, field research outposts, museums, workshops and libraries where research in the city takes place. This year, on what ended up being one of the hottest of the summer, the HIIG , my home institution, invited Berliners to explore the work we do which focuses on the internet, society and knowledge transfer. One of the projects we demonstrated was Pelagios, and specifically the Recogito and Peripleo tools. And since LNdW is hugely popular with smaller scientists-to-be, we decided to make the demos as child-friendly as possible.
That meant finding a way to show how to map sources, show relations and explore linked data artefacts, in fun and engaging ways… which meant comics! We digitised some pages from everyone’s favourite Gaulish adventurer, and invited visitors to explore and annotate the world of the Roman empire in 50 BC. As they did so, they were able to ask questions such as: What places in the comics were historically accurate? Which were not? Do the German names of places correspond to those in the sources and gazetteers? What makes a place ‘real’ or ‘imagined’? And where exactly is the small Gaulish village in Armorica, which continues to hold out against the Roman invasions?
The second activity was a linked data treasure hunt. We chose 10 treasures from the mass of materials in Peripleo – everything from golden coins of Egypt to ancient ruins and Etrustcan vases. With just a little information supplied, the digital Indiana Joneses were able to search through Peripleo, narrowing their results by collections source, period and name, until they were able to find where they had originally been created. Then, in an act of object repatriation, they could place the item back ‘home’ in its geographic location on a giant printed map.
The activities were a great success. The team worked for four hours, guiding the visiting children (and their parents) through the activities, and generating some rather interesting annotations. All object were safely repatriated, and a new generation of historical cartographers (and comic book fanatics) were inspired. Thanks to all the HIIG, especially Moritz Timm and Larissa Wunderlich for their help!