Dr Andrea Nanetti first theorised Engineering Historical Memory (EHM) when he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University in 2007. Since then, EHM is an ongoing research project that welcomes international and multidisciplinary collaboration to design and test interactive applications for virtual (re)organisation and delivery of historical knowledge in the digital age. The aim is to overcome linguistic obstacles and cultural barriers of historical research in a transcultural (re)reading of primary sources and secondary literature for the pre-modern history of the Afro-Eurasian continent, its people and their interactions between 1205 and 1533. The stage being the intercontinental communication networks by sea and by land as they were first identified by the German geographer Ferdinand Freiherr von Richthofen (1833-1905) in his magnum opus China (1877-1912). With equally and fairly engagement of different cultural environments in Europe, Africa, and Asia, this scholarly initiative also aims to contribute to the forging of international, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue and cooperation.

Dr Winnie Cui (Outreach Director at Microsoft) reviewed EHM on the Microsoft Research Blog "because of its unique and successful interdisciplinary collaboration". PLOS ONE also showcased EHM for its open-society and non-commercial perspective. For a brief overview of the research project, one can refer to the article published by Nicola Wittekindt (Science Writer and Editor) on NTU Singapore Pushing Frontiers Magazine.

Currently, Dr Nanetti runs EHM in the framework of LIBER (Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Bookish and Experiential Research), which he established at the School of Art, Design and Media of Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU-ADM) in January 2019, and since then he is its Director. At NTU Singapore the laboratory is run in collaboration with the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (NTU-SPMS), the School of Computer Science and Engineering (NTU-SCSE), and the Office of Information Knowledge and Library Services (OIKLS). The research focus is on visualisation tools (technologies and processes) that can be readily adopted by all users to research high volumes of data through maps, timelines, tag clouds, and interconnected graphs on different scales. The results are solutions to facilitate the transition from top-down approaches (based on the application of theories) to agent-based modelling and simulations, directly related to the knowledge of primary sources (established by philological research) and the constant flow of secondary literature (updating and discussing historical interpretations). In practice, this approach empowers scholars with more quickly and more thoroughly explorations of previously accumulated knowledge of places, people, things, and events in the historical landscape of different cultures in various languages.

Target audience with interests in how computers can enhance the transcultural understanding of primary historical sources for the study of Afro-Eurasia

  • Historians (professionals/paid, amateurs/unpaid)
  • Digital born generation of students
  • History teachers
  • Librarians
  • Archivists
  • Museum curators
  • General public

Plan of action: crucial primary sources for the study of Afro-Eurasia between 1205 and 1533:

  • World maps (e.g., Fra Mauro, Genoese world maps)
  • Travel account (e.g., Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Zheng He)
  • Chronicles (e.g., Venetian diaries, Ming Shi-Lu, Malay annals)
  • City maps (Map of Imola, the earliest extant modern survey of a city)
  • Archival documents (e.g., Gregory X, Modon and Coron)
  • Archaeological sites (e.g., Castle of Modon, Rock Inscriptions of Mariners)

Methodological foci

  1. Philological accuracy
    Goal: correctly transfer into a digital database information already published, without diluting its philological accuracy
    Plan of action: collaboration with authors and publishers of critical editions and translations to access the most accurate scholarship available on a crucial primary historical sources
  2. Open access
    Goal: make freely available to the public crucial copyright materials
    Plan of action: collaboration with libraries, archives, museums, and publishers
  3. Machine-readable information
    Goal: generate (semi)automatic aggregations of historical knowledge
    Plan of action: map historical information (unstructured) into curated relational databases (phase 1) that can empower graph databases (phase 2)
  4. Interactivity
    Goal: connect the information embedded in different historical primary sources
    Plan of action: design and develop ABMS and visualisation tools to facilitate the flow of information linked by keywords and generate an augmented exploration of primary historical sources
  5. Link to relevant secondary literature
    Goal: connect the information selected by the user to relevant secondary literature available online
    Plan of action: meta search on leading online repositories (e.g., Europeana, Taylor&Francis, Elsevier, CNKI, Wanfang), resources mashup, critical filtering
    Expected outcome: transparent references to crucial historical sources and their related scholarship available online
  6. Provenance and validation
    Goal: provide a clear understanding of the information’s provenance and a robust validation method to assess its accuracy
    Plan of action: link information from secondary literature to the primary source on which it is grounded
  7. Public participation (i.e., citizen science, crowd-sourced science)
    Goal: generate volunteer monitoring on the information published on EHM
    Plan of action: create a community to constantly update the information available on the EHM database (curated by professionals), and connect the information published on EHM to the relevant Wikipedia pages (curated by a larger pool of scholars and amateurs)

Spaces of fruition
EHM aims to contribute to the reinvention of the user experience in historical spaces such as libraries, archives, museums, and archaeological sites.

  • Digital spaces: desktop and mobile devices, projection mapping, large screens, AR and VR
  • Historical spaces: libraries, archives, and museums that hold and preserve unique artefacts
  • All educational spaces where lecturing and academic writing are basic but non-exclusive channels of communicating content and creating new knowledge


  • Andrea Nanetti, Imola antica e medievale nella cronachistica cittadina di Età moderna. Indagine esemplare per una ingegnerizzazione della memoria storica [Engineering Historical Memory. The Early Modern Chronicles of Ancient and Medieval Imola as a showcase]. Imola: Associazione per Imola storico-artistica & Editrice La Mandragora, 2008 (Atti dell’AISA, XXI). LINK.
  • Andrea Nanetti, Siew Ann Cheong, Mikhail Filippov, Interactive Global Histories. For a new information environment to increase the understanding of historical processes, in Proceedings of the International Conference on Culture and Computing 2013 (Kyoto, Ritsumeikan University, Sept. 16-18, 2013). Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society, [September] 2013, pp. 104-110. Best Paper Award. LINK.
  • Andrea Nanetti, Angelo Cattaneo, Siew Ann Cheong, Chin-Yew Lin, Maps as Knowledge Aggregators: from Renaissance Italy Fra Mauro to Web Search Engines, in «The Cartographic Journal» (© The British Cartographic Society), special issue, 52/2 (May 2015), pp. 159-167. LINK.
  • Andrea Nanetti (guest ed.). Revisiting the World of Fra Mauro's Map and the Morosini Codex in an Artificial Intelligence Perspective, in «The Asian Review of World Histories», Vol. 4/1 (Jan. 2016), [published on 29 June 2016] Special Issue (authors: Andrea Nanetti, Cheong Siew Ann, Angelo Cattaneo, Mikhail Filippov, Lin Chin-Yew). LINK.
  • Shen Shen Luo, Ben A. Shedd, Andrea Nanetti. Enhancing the Experience of the Western Xia Imperial Tombs Heritage Site (PRC, Ningxia) through Animated Installations, in «SCIRESit (SCIentific RESearch and Information Technology)», Vol. 8/1 (June 2018), pp. 1-31 (and cover page for this issue of the journal). LINK.
  • Andrea Nanetti and Siew Ann Cheong, Computational History: From Big Data to Big Simulations, in Shu-Heng Chen (Ed.), Big Data in Computational Social Science and Humanities. Cham (Switzerland): Springer International Publishing AG, 2018, Ch. 18 (pp. 337-363). LINK. Translated in Korean in 2019.
  • Andrea Nanetti, Davide Benvenuti, Animation of two-dimensional pictorial works into multipurpose three-dimensional objects. The Atlas of the Ships of the Known World depicted in the 1460 Fra Mauro’s mappa mundi as a showcase, in «SCIRESit (SCIentific RESearch and Information Technology)», Vol. 9/2 (2019), pp. 29-46. LINK.
  • Andrea Nanetti, Overcoming Linguistic Obstacles and Cultural Barriers in the Transcultural (Re)-Reading of Primary Sources and Secondary Literature for Afro-Eurasian Pre-Modern History (1205-1533), in Rila Mukherjee (Ed.), Order/Disorder in Asia: Historical Perspectives. Kolkata (India): The Asiatic Society, 2020, Ch. 16. Forthcoming. Translation in Mandarin will be published in 2020 by Fudan University.