Saturday, December 3, 2011

Virtual travel in the Ottoman world

During 2011, UNESCO has celebrated the life of Evliya Celebi, an Ottoman traveller born in 1611. Over the course of forty years of the seventeenth century, Evliya Celebi wrote a book entitled Seyahatname - The Book of Travels - which describes his experiences with people in various parts of the world.
In London, a group of historians, musicians and multi-media artists were inspired by Evliya Celebi's work. They thought that this author could be a representative for larger social processes:
In the 17th century travelling such vast distances would have been no easy feat, yet in many ways these travellers embodied what was happening on a much larger scale worldwide. As we travel through Istanbul, London, Vienna and Cairo, we find that these stories and cities do not exist in isolation, rather they are intertwined and are influenced by each other.

In order to communicate these relationships, the project group decided to build a physical exhibition that would only be open for only a few days. The primary function would be to create a virtual exhibition on The Book of Travels. They write:
We really wanted to share the full experience of being immersed in the physical exhibition, and decided that the best way to do that was to share both the overall experience of standing in the room, and the ability to wander up close to each component and almost reach out and touch each panel.

The photo-mapping technique used is similar to how the Google art project has allowed virtual visitors to wander through various famous art galleries.
Although the physical/virtual exhibition was taken down in London, the project is still alive on the web and as a travelling exhibition. I notice that the British Council will be opening The Book of Travels in Thessaloniki just before Christmas this year:

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