Introduction by OpenMethods Editor (Alíz Horváth): This post introduces two tools developed by the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, LoGaRT and RISE with a focus on Asia and Eurasia.
Local gazetteers (地方志 difangzhi) constitute a rich source of information about local conditions in various parts of China from the 12th to the 20th century. What makes these materials particularly interesting is that they are both versatile in content, but also relatively consistent in structure, rendering them particularly suitable for digital analysis. LoGaRT, or Local Gazetteers Research Tools, developed by Shih-Pei Chen, Qun Che, Calvin Yeh, and Sean Wang under the umbrella of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, aims to help scholars make the most out of the contents that local gazetteers can offer by encouraging the combination of close and distant reading. LoGaRT is a largely open access platform which can be utilized immediately after filling out a brief registration form. The user-friendly interface provides access to 410 digitized rare local gazetteers from the Harvard-Yenching Library’s rare book collection (complemented by ’s Zhongguo fangzhi ku 中国方志库 collection specifically for MPIWG affiliates that is made available via Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin’s CrossAsia service).
The concept of LoGaRT – treating local gazetteers as “databases” by themselves – is an innovative and pertinent way to articulate the essence of the platform: providing opportunities for multi-level analysis from the close reading of the sources (using, for example, the carousel mode) to the large-scale, “bird’s eye view” of the materials across geographical and temporal boundaries.
Local gazetteers are predominantly textual sources – this characteristic of the collection is reflected in the capabilities of LoGaRT as well, since some of its key capabilities include data search (using Chinese characters), collection and analysis, as well as tagging and dataset comparison. That said, LoGaRT also offers integrated visualization tools and supports the expansion of the collection and tagging features to the images used in a number of gazetteers. The opportunity to smoothly intertwine these visual and textual collections with Chinese historical maps (see CHMap) is an added, and much welcome, advantage of the tool, which helps to develop sophisticated and multifaceted analyses.
The platform is accessible through the MPIWG website: https://logart.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/LGServices2/#/signin
Additional information about the tool is available here: https://www.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/research/projects/logart-local-gazetteers-research-tools
A slide-based tutorial to LoGaRT can be openly accessed here: https://zenodo.org/record/3909585#.YqMT16hBxPY
Beside LoGaRT, the interview also touches upon another contribution of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science to the development of digital research infrastructures, the RISE Project. RISE (Research Infrastructure for the Study of Eurasia) facilitates knowledge dissemination and access to (currently more than 130 000) resources in 8 languages by securely connecting third-party search tools and textual collections through the SHINE API. Current partners and collaborators include various organizations and projects, such as the Chinese Text Project, the Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association, the Kanseki Repository (Kanripo), Berlin State Library, Freie Universität Berlin, and Harvard-Yenching Library. The RISE Project’s website (https://rise.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/) offers smooth sign-up features and open access to its GitHub platform for developers.
This post is complemented by an interview with Shih-Pei Chen as part our Spotlights series.