Contributed Talk - Splinter Culture

Thursday, 16 September 2021, 16:15   (virtual Cult)

Imagining the Heavens in the Digital Age

Anna Jerratsch
Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science

Practicalities of everyday life like measuring time, navigation, or knowing the weather depend on knowing the heavens, but also, humans of all ages and cultures rejoiced at the sun’s rays, marveled at the full moon, or feared a comet. Visual representations and material objects are artifacts of mythological, theoretical, philosophical, or religious ideas and concepts imagined upon the celestial abode, which are examined in the framework of an international research group based at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science. An annotated image database reflects the spatial and temporal breadth envisioned in the project by collecting manifold visual forms and formats of astral knowledge from Eurasian history of almost 6000 years. The collection includes manuscripts and books, instruments, coins, objects of art or architecture with star constellations, weather phenomena, planets, demons, and other heavenly inhabitants in anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, diagrammatic, or semiotic formats. My paper aims at presenting the structure of the database that was designed to facilitate collaboratively collecting, reviewing, and editing data and resources. By introducing the database’s customized metadata scheme including identifiers of the objects, detailed descriptions of the themes they visualize, the places and time periods of the objects’ origin as well as the current locations I want to elaborate on how the virtual bringing together of objects allows for comparative research on processes of knowledge formation, exchange, and transformation.