Current Projects

A glimpse inside the workshop. This is where we are directing our energies (and maybe, eventually, yours).

Canvas Empire (The Laboratory)

The Idea

Spatial history at its best requires not only new content, but new forms. So we are venturing за карта (beyond the map, and beyond the book for that matter) into the realm of flexible, responsive, multi-media history. We constantly experiment with ways to give voice to maps, connect visual and quantitative sources, and build projects that allow users to approach Russian history from unexpected angles. 

The Product

The Canvas Empire website holds a range of products, from single interactive maps to full-blown multi-media projects. Despite differences in scale, each product examines questions related to place and space. This is where you can explore a portrait of ethnic and economic diversity through a pack of playing cards. A tour of Russia on the eve of World War I (and revolution). A sketch of land use in 19th century Crimea. The history of Kamchatka in a dozen maps. The menu is always expanding. Visit the site.

MobY (the Research Sandbox)

The Idea

There is nothing more fundamental to human existence - and to understanding historical phenomena - than movement. Forms of mobility change over time and across space, and come at a variety of costs. We are building a resource - the MobY, or Mobility Analysis Tool - that allows researchers to research how people, objects, and ideas moved through the Russian Empire. The work involves developing methods for extracting spatial data from carefully selected map series and printed texts, combining spatial with statistical data through a complex database, and building a user interface that renders the information accessible, usable, and contextualized.

The Product

Spring 2021 is devoted to rivers. We are digitizing river routes and collecting data on navigability, trade volumes, ship traffic, and climate data. This data will serve as the first pillar of the MobY app, with a tentative launch set for Fall 2021.

Toponimika (the Database)

The Idea

We are building a historical gazetteer for the Russian Empire by combining historical methods with methods adapted from GIS and digital humanities. The work involves collecting (manually and through semi-automation) attestations of place from carefully selected sources. We are digitizing geographic dictionaries, topographical descriptions, statistical tables, and historical map series. We ingest the information into a database that captures spatial, temporal, and thematic attributes. 

The Product

An open-source gazetteer capable of supporting research projects and teaching agendas on a wide variety of topics. This work is entering a new phase with the inauguration of the Toponimika Data Bank in Spring 2021.