Voices for The Map of Mexico 1550

Dr. Lily Díaz-Kommonen

Professor, Systems of Representation

University of Art & Design Helsinki (UIAH)

Media Lab 135C Hämeentie SF 00560 Helsinki Finland


Digital reality

Imagine being able to immerse yourself into one of the most valuable documents from the early colonial history of the city of Meacute;xico. Moving the digital replica with your hands, you are able to zoom in very closely. Diminutive pictograms reveal themselves to you whilst myriad sources of information become available. You decide whether to view a historic legend rendered in digital video by a group of young designers, or examine a website created by scholars containing photographs and descriptions of the historic monuments, or even enjoy the real time imagery transmitted via a web cam overlooking the city of Mexico. These are examples of some of the things that you can already do with Media Lab Helsinki's virtual reconstruction of the Map of Mexico 1550 by Alonso de Santa Cruz.

Background information

The project is a collaborative endeavor begun in 1997 and involving three institutions. These are: the University of Art and Design Helsinki (UIAH) Media Lab; the Uppsala University Library that is the keeper of the original manuscript; and the Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing of the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT). Professor Lily Diacute;az and the Systems of Representation research group at Media Lab UIAH conceived the project as well as implemented the application research and design. The methods for recording the manuscripts were developed by Professor Henrik Haggren at HUT. Antti Huittinen, Lecturer at the Department of Photography at UIAH, did the stereo photography.

Content development activities have also been carried out with the Universidad Iberoamericana de Ciudad de Meacute;xico, where a group of students in the Interactive Design program created digital video versions of a sample of the legends of the historic city center.

Objectives project description

Preserving the artifacts of culture necessitates constant renewal through their re-creation. In this work, we propose a holistic solution to the problem of preservation that uses a strategy of disseminating high-fidelity digital replicas to the scholars and public at-large.

The data collection method developed in the project enables for the 3D aspects of the manuscript to be transferred to the digital domain.

The design research work done comprises three major areas. The first area concerns the study of the form and key material aspects of the object, in order to facilitate the transfer into the digital domain. A simple digitization in not enough: The new virtual artifact produced must possess its own sense-making properties. In response to this challenge, a method that makes use of stereo photography was developed which allows for the three-dimensional characteristics of the artifact to be incorporated into the digitally born replica.

The second area focuses on interface design with an emphasis on the possibility to show the map alongside other material artifacts in a museum exhibition. The objective is to create an interface that provides close range, multimodal interaction as well as facilitates the social sharing of information. The resulting software ImaNote, is open source, free software that allows for communities of users to work, share, and publish their knowledge about the map on the World Wide Web.

Imanote is the software developed at the Media Lab Helsinki to display the application. (See: http://imanote.uiah.fi) Using this tool electronic post it notes (EPINs) are created which indicate the places in the Map where there is additional content. Clicking on the EPIN launches a separate window and displays audio-visual content, in this case the digital video legend about Plaza del Volador in Mexico City.

The third area of design and research is about open content development. This area seeks to bring together knowledge from archaeology, art history, digital design, Latin American studies, narrative, and semantics, as well as any other disciplines that see the map as relevant to their fields of study.

The project proposes an open model in which direct interaction with objects of digital cultural heritage trigger novel experiences so that history and traditions are brought to life, in the present.