Imperial Japan’s 1904–05 war against Tsarist Russia changed the global balance of power. The first war to be widely illustrated in postcards, the Japanese view of the conflict is presented in images from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection of Japanese Postcards at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.”

“Visualizing Cultures weds images and scholarly commentary in innovative ways to illuminate social and cultural history. Founded in 2002 by MIT Professors John Dower and Shigeru Miyagawa, Visualizing Cultures exploits the unique qualities of the Web as a publishing platform to enable scholars, teachers, and others to: (1) examine large bodies of previously inaccessible images; (2) compose original texts with unlimited numbers of full-color, high-resolution images; and (3) use new technology to explore unprecedented ways of analyzing and presenting images that open windows on modern history.

Visualizing Cultures has positioned itself as a nexus between the institutions that house image collections and the scholars who would like to use them for research purposes. Publishing on MIT’s revolutionary OpenCourseWare—making MIT courses freely available on the Web—Visualizing Cultures has worked with many institutions to negotiate online publication of images for educational purposes using a creative commons license.

Visualizing Cultures Units

This website offers a growing number of titles referred to as “units.” This first, pioneering set of units visualizes diverse aspects of Japan in the modern world. Units in development move into China and beyond. Choose from the list of current titles on the VC Units Menu.

Navigating the Site

Units are generally comprised of four sections:

A topical essay written by a Visualizing Cultures scholar and driven by the visuals themselves features full-color images, often enlarged to reveal telling details. Images are isolated and juxtaposed to highlight diverse perspectives and points. Reading images involves asking who the artists are, when they worked, what mediums they used, and how the audiences of the times responded to them.

Visual Narratives
Graphics dominate the Visual Narratives. Themes from the essay as well as pathways and details within the image collection are explored visually in many different ways—series, close ups, recurring visual motifs, juxtapositions, changing media, and so forth—with a minimum of text.

Image Database (Gallery and VCID)
Each unit has a database that features every image in the essay, plus many more. The database generally takes the form of a simple view (Gallery) that enables users to easily scroll through the collection of source images. Some units feature a more complex database (VCID) with a federated search function that hooks directly into museum databases. All databases include at least basic metadata.

Video and Animation (VCTV)
Visualizing Cultures has more than a hundred short clips that include author commentaries, interviews, tours, animation, and archival source footage. Video is also downloadable for the iPod on iTunes U.

On Viewing Images From the Historical Record

Visualizing Cultures is a gateway to seeing history through images that once had wide circulation among peoples of different times and places. We do historical research this way as scholars to better understand how people saw themselves, how they saw others including foreigners and enemies, and how in turn others saw them. Visualizing Cultures presents images from the historical record uncensored. It is not an art-history or art-appreciation site. Displaying images from the historical record does not represent an endorsement of their content. (More.)

The Team

The founders and directors of Visualizing Cultures are MIT professors John W. Dower, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian whose scholarship includes close attention to visual materials, and Shigeru Miyagawa, who holds a joint appointment in linguistics and Japanese language and culture, and is a pioneer in the production and use of digital media for education.

Multimedia specialists Ellen Sebring (MIT ’86) and Scott Shunk have conceived and designed the project’s structure and “look and feel” from its inception in 2002. Sebring, Creative Director, designs the Essays, develops the Visual Narratives and adjunct video, and works with authors embarking on a Visualizing Cultures unit. Shunk, Program Director, is the liaison with the partner institutions, authors, and teachers, and develops outreach for the project. Andrew Burstein creates graphic, multimedia, and animation elements.

John W. Dower, Founder & Project Director
Shigeru Miyagawa, Founder & Project Director
Ellen Sebring, Creative Director
Scott Shunk, Program Director
Andrew Burstein, Media Designer


Funders include the MIT d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Center for Global Partnership, and MIT iCampus Outreach.

OpenCourseWare (OCW)

Visualizing Cultures represents a substantive offshoot of MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative to make pedagogical and scholarly content freely and widely available. Professor Miyagawa was a member of the committee that first developed this groundbreaking project, which has inspired counterpart initiatives on the Web worldwide.”

A proposito dell'autore

Laureata in Storia presso l’Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia con uno studio sulla società longobarda dell'Italia meridionale nell'Alto Medioevo, ha conseguito la Laurea specialistica in Archivistica e biblioteconomia presso lo stesso Ateneo con una tesi sulle biblioteche digitali per gli studi medievistici. Autore di Storia Digitale | Contenuti online per la Storia: blog-repertorio che dal 2007 si propone di monitorare e selezionare iniziative e progetti presenti nel web utili agli studi storici.

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