About the Project

With the support of the Getty Foundation and in collaboration with the Instituto Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro and Fondren Library in Houston, the Humanities Research Center at Rice University is developping, over a period of two years, a project that focuses on the digital integration of Rio de Janeiro’s historical photography and cartography. In the grant’s first year, the project will identify and scan four thousand photographic views of Rio de Janeiro, upload them into an open access image repository, situate them in both time and space, and integrate them with the cartographic platform imagineRio, which is currently in development at Rice University’s Humanities Research Center (HRC).

The four thousand images were created by 19th- and early 20th-century photographers in Brazil and are currently held by the Instituto Moreira Salles. This important photography collection will initially be uploaded into an open-source repository specially adequated for imagineRio through reciprocal Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and that mirrors the infrastructure of Brasiliana Fotográfica, the DSpace repository developed by IMS in partnership with Brazil’s National Library and other Brazilian institutions. This will serve as a basis for developing, with the technical expertise from Rice’s Fondren Library and IMS’ extensive experience with visual databases, a robust and “best in class” digital asset management solution that is fully integrated with imagineRio and that can scale up in the future. The integration of visual and cartographic databases will make it possible to embed temporally accurate and zoomed-in maps next to each photograph and its available data. Both visual and cartographic environments will also generate and display corresponding cones of vision, while photographs will reciprocally appear in their geotemporal contexts. Once visual and cartographic databases are mutually integrated, historians of Rio de Janeiro and historians of photography, as well as the general public, will have access to the dataset of photographs along with their geospatial information.

The project’s team members will, in addition, investigate available computer vision applications that facilitate the extraction of information from situated and contextualized photographs. In the grant’s second year, two simultaneous investigations will focus on the issue of geolocating historic photographs and open up the possibility of developing innovative tools, applicable to other projects as well, for extracting geographical data from historical photographs. The investigations consist of 1) orthorectifying historical photographs in order to produce georeferenced vector data; and 2) generating a procedural model of Rio de Janeiro’s urban evolution from diverse data sources as well as from the photogrammetric processing of digitized historical photographs. These investigations will most likely inform one another throughout the second year, during which project team members will bring together a network of interested institutions, scholars, history buffs, and developers, leading up to the first of hopefully many symposia to come.