Prototyping a Navigable Hypertext for Inaccessible Historical Books
Open Cultural Data Hackathon organised by OpenGLAM CH Working Group, 2016
Superdot accepted the challenge to participate at the second Swiss Open Cultural Data Hackathon at the University of Basel Library. Our attention was caught by de humani corporis fabrica (‘On the Structure of the Human Body’), a 16th century medical tome.
Having the expert view of another hackathon participant offered new insights, enabling us to understand the significance of the work. The book features many full page medical illustrations but also hundreds of textual pages. We developed a classification of the pages based on their content which was transformed into the ‘DNA’ of the book.
Based on the content analysis the insights we created ‘stories’. We came up with a story on ‘The Muscle Men of Vesalius’, exploring the book’s full body illustrations and how they are shown in a peculiar manner. During our two days at the hackathon we created an app prototype.
We realized that historical volumes such as this capture fascinating details in a way which is somehow inaccessible to the modern eye. Our prototype tries to change that, transforming texts into true hypertexts. Any rare, forgotten, valuable work like this could be made accessible in this way. The ‘DNA’ navigation, the concept of stories, as well as the presentation in an app can be seen as a universal method.