Mapping Ararat: Understanding Spatial History

In reading this week’s readings, I am reminded of a project introduced to me prior in another class. This project dealt with the issue of spatial history in a Jewish context. Before the establishment of the State of Israel, there have been many proposals to establish a Jewish homeland. One such proposal was the city of Ararat in what would be Grand Island.  A 27 square mile island near Buffalo, New York it was proposed by Mordecai Manuel Noah, playwright, and politician. The proposal for this Jewish city did not make it far, and the idea of the Jewish city of Ararat faded into obscurity.

The city of Ararat, however, has been in the process of construction under the development of Melissa Shiff a research associate at York University and Louis Kaplan a professor of history and theory of photography at the University of Toronto.  The project uses augmented reality, simulated cartography and geolocation software to reimagine modern day Grand Island, New York into the city of Ararat. Through an app, the user would see superimposed objects over the landscape of Grand Island, seeing such things as monuments and temples and other hallmarks of society.

This reimagining of history invites the user to view an alternate history of that land, what it could have been instead of what it is. The technology used allows the user to interact with the past and look at an alternate present. What interested me about the technology used was that it superimposed the space of Grand Island with the markings of an Ararat society.  That history and space in itself have become merged in the narrative of Ararat.

The example of Ararat opens the potential for the technological advancement of historical narratives. In understanding the new ways in which history can be told  in our technological age, the project of Ararat provides an example of the technological capabilities of illustrating history through its display of the past onto the present.

In thinking of spatial history and in the ways in which spaces can be manipulated to fit historical narratives the Mapping Ararat project seems like an interesting approach in telling the story of the search for a Jewish homeland. Looking at the potential of projects such as Mapping Ararat allows us to potentially reimagine the past in new and exciting ways.

If anyone is interested.

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