Places & Geography

THL Toolbox > Places & Geography

Places & Geography Technical Documentation

Introduction to THL Place Resources

Documenting places - and thus space - is one of the most fundamental components of THL. This involves documenting geographical features of all types across Tibet and Himalayans. This includes the natural and the cultural, and very local and the transregional, the official and the unofficial. The broader goal is to build a comprehensive geographical model of the plateau that can be used to generate maps as well as enable spatial analysis and queries, and then use that model to index and integrate a wide variety of resources about those places – textual studies, Encyclopedia entries, images, audio-video recordings, journal reprints, immersive objects, and more. This includes basic documentation of place names, creation of spatial databases and maps, development of rich multimedia essays on places, and immersive models of places.

The central lynchpin is the Place Dictionary, which is essentially a dictionary of place and institution (“feature”) names that includes their location in terms of latitude and longitude. It is the latter location that allows for the included features to be expressed on a variety of maps, as well as for maps to link back to descriptive entries for features in the Place Dictionary. The Place Dictionary assigns each feature a unique ID, which is then used to catalog all other resources – images in terms of the place where they photographed, texts in terms of the places they discuss, and so forth. However, the Place Dictionary itself only has general and limited descriptive information about features – description is a paragraph to a page, and there are no structured fields unique to specific types of features. In this regards, the Encyclopedias are where rich, descriptive information about features are provided, as well as possibly structured types of information which are unique to specific types of features. For example, the Monasteries Encyclopedia provides a structured set of information about each monastery – ritual systems, education exchanges, etc. – as well as potentially detailed essays about the monastery’s current and historical characteristics. A given feature will thus have a brief descriptive entry in the Place Dictionary, from which there will be a link to a more detailed entry in the corresponding Encyclopedia.

People will thus access the information contained in the Place Dictionary – along with all the resources indexed and accessible through it - in general through one of four modalities: (i) searching the Place Dictionary; (ii) browsing the Place Dictionary through one of its classification structures (such as contemporary administrative units, or the feature thesaurus); (iii) exploring an interactive map; or (iv) through a reference to a feature embedded in such locations as an essay, a historic Tibetan text, a cataloging record for an image and so forth. One is always just two clicks at most from any associated resource for a given place, since one click will take you to the Place Dictionary, and the Place Dictionary will index all the resources related to that place (images, texts, etc.) and provide direct links.

Immersive models of places involves representing places - from building to terrain - with immersive technology that provides 360 degree and three dimensional models. These include:

  • QTVR panaromas
  • VRML three dimensonal models

Mapping involves the creation of maps ranges from sketch drawings in the field to powerful GIS databases from which maps can be generated.

  • Making maps in the field
  • Making maps from satellite images

Our System for Content Providers

Our place-based initiatives are entirely reliant upon a broad network of content providers, including scholars, students, local residents, tourists, photographers, videographers, and others. Given the diversity and extent of this network, we have to provide a robust system enabling the straightforward preparation and processing of data into forms that can easily be submitted directly into THL’s repositories for integrated publication. With this in mind, we have prepared a variety of tools and guidelines, as well as workflow systems that provide an overview of the process from start to finish. The steps and tools will depend on precisely what types of resources one is contributing, and with what agenda. The following are some of the major frameworks within which a given contributor may be working:

  • The Historical GIS project, or the Historical and Cultural Geography of Tibet and the Himalayas initiative, aiming at documenting polities, cultures, and monasteries across time on the plateau.
  • The Geotourism project aiming at documenting Tibetan places and cultures for a popular audience, and especially tourists, with the aim of promoting more responsible, engaged, and beneficial forms of tourism.
  • The Monasteries Encyclopedia project aiming at documenting Tibetan monasteries.
  • The Polities Encyclopedia project aiming at documenting Tibetan polities.
  • Other Place Encyclopedias devoted to specific types of features.
  • Digital Fieldwork on the ground in Tibet and Himalayas using various technologies to document places therein.

Please consult the guidelines above for each of the various areas for a suggested workflow that gives a sense of how one can proceed systematically on a given project within these initiatives, as well as directions to the relevant tools and more detailed manuals.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library