A Visual Browser for the Archive

A user-friendly approach to digitized archival documents

The Problem

Digital editions suffer from a paradox: while they make recondite documents available to a wider public, the loss of sensorial input resulting from their dematerialization tends to disorient and even discourage readers from engaging with its contents. They make the navigation of vast document repositories rather cumbersome and intimidating. This is not only true for users inexperienced with archival research, but also among readers affected with cognitive impairments.

The Solution

This is where archival metadata can help us. Indeed, such data enable us to create interactive visual abstractions which provide readers with an alternative sensorial input, increasing thus both ergonomics and accessibility. To make the archive visually navigable, a treemap, or any diagram that efficiently breaks down hierarchical data can do the trick.

The Experiment

My first experiment adapts the Zoomable Treemap code for D3.js, adding hyperlinks to it. It represents the manuscript BnF Ms Fr 640, its folios, and the entries inside each folio. The colors represent the dominating category. More data is available by hovering over each entry, including the hyperlink to the manuscript. In doing so, the treemap becomes an interactive visual index, showing readers a very quick and responsive overview, not only of the manuscript’s contents but also of the dimensions of each folio and each entry. Over the coming months I will continue experimenting with this idea trying other diagrams and other hierarchies… Stay tuned!

Click any cell to zoom in, or the top to zoom out.

Clément Godbarge
Clément Godbarge
Warbrug—I Tatti Fellow

My research interests include early modern history, Italian literature and the digital humanities.