MUSOMED : Mutual Sources on Modern Mediterranean Architecture : towards an open and shared system

Lire en français

Project’s website : (information under “projects”)

1. Problems to be solved : Modern architecture in the southern and eastern Mediterranean, broadly understood (i.e. 19th and 20th c. architecture), strongly shape its current urban landscapes, but represents a tangible cultural heritage that has long been overlooked. Its hybrid forms and aesthetics, resulting either from colonization or from indigenous Europeanization processes, are attracting growing attention from European and Mediterranean scholars alike, in architectural history and/or in postcolonial studies. Awareness from concerned institutions in the southern Mediterranean (city councils, national agencies, NGOs) is perceptible. The demand for specialised and accurate knowledge in this new research field is not met by any consistent documentary offer. Internet specialized resources are virtually non-existant, on-line data are difficult to retrieve due to non-geographical indexing of existing information, relevant primary material is scattered across the Mediterranean in a multitude of non-, little- or badly-inventoried collections, due in particular to transliteration problems. Access to material, often of fragile nature, is uneasy. Research requires to manipulate data of heterogeneous nature (multilingual written material, period pictures and contemporary images, drawings), that call for specific treatment.

2. Scientific Objectives and Approach (including innovation) : MUSOMED proposes to address these issues by using the latest information technologies, within the framework of a EU-Med partnership. Its specific objective is the feasibility study of a prototype of research infrastructure (digital platform) in open-source, easing remote access to relevant and trusted heterogeneous documentary data, and allowing for their cross searching. The structure and organisation of the platform have been defined through a series of case studies, consortium discussions and experts meetings. Available sources have been scrutinized, and the problems raised by the current digital offer on the topic identified. The legal questions involved in the use of the diverse types of data concerned have been confronted. Case studies have helped testing the appropriate methodologies for dealing with distinct data configurations, from information kept in European library holdings to data acquired through field work and in Mediterranean archive collections.

3. Achieved Scientific Results : The successive steps of the project have led to the conception of a digital prototype, based on a three-entry model for the data to be processed (topographic location of a given building, actors involved in its construction process, archive material related to it).The case studies have helped delineate issues to be solved. As a whole, the project has pointed out a strong digital divide in the field, and as a prerequisite, the pressing need for significant IT training (from indexing images to acquaintance with on-line information) for potential users of the platform. The state of art has shown that there is little trusted and organized on-line information on the topic, and successive meetings with varied groups of experts have clearly demonstrated that a significant share of relevant information is kept today, besides European public collections, in individual laptops. Specialized scholars have expressed interest to share their data under certain conditions ; standard agreements are being discussed to this end within the international research group “Architectures modernes en Méditerranée” and with potential future partners. This evolution has led to envision different levels of access to the projected digital platform, from full access granted to contributors to limited view offered to the general public.

4. Policy Impact : A first impact concerns the enhancement of working methodologies in the field of Humanities. Platforms of shared data are still rare and the project can propose feedback on the topic. Methods to deal with Mediterranean toponyms, and their varying transliterations over time, are of interest to any European librarian or archive curator keeping Mediterranean material, i.e. related to North Africa or the Middle East, and in particular in middle-size institutions that can not afford specialized librarians. Finally, easing access to archive material in the field of architecture and construction has appeared of notable interest for architectural firms involved in conservation and rehabilitation, as well as for educational purposes in architectural schools.

5. Dissemination and Exploitation of the Results : spin-offs, publications, database operational at the end of the project, patent etc. : The project has produced 2 flyers and 2 successive brochures. An abstract and powerpoint presentation are available on the web. The visual and textual documentation gathered will be used to start implementing the projected platform of shared resources.

Contract number : No. 028817 (CIT6) Start date – End date : 01/05/06 – 31/10/08 Contract type : SSA Duration (in months) : 30

Coordinator details : Mrs VOLAIT, Mercedes : CNRS : IN VISU joint research unit, USR 3103 Institut national d’histoire de l’art 2, rue Vivienne 75002 – Paris FRANCE

Partner 1 : Mr Godoli, Ezio Universita degli Studi du Firenze, Dipartimento di Storia dell’Architettura e della Città Country : Italy

Partner 2 : Mr Saadaoui, Ahmed Université de la Manouba, UR Villes historiques de la Tunisie et de la Méditerranée Country : Tunisia