The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

How to read Beautiful Spaces

Beautiful Spaces is designed around the claim that text is not enough: that history has a graphic dimension. It is therefore designed to both show and tell. It is also designed to emphasize the importance of place. And it is designed to draw you in, by encouraging you to make choices, explore connections, and follow pathways. 

While a traditional history would present one story, this one insists that there are innumerable connections between the people, places, objects, and ideas of the past. Those connections, or relationships, and the dense web into which they coalesce, are the stuff of history. They are the source of complexity and nuance. They are the reason history is both a craft and an art.

So what? What does this mean, exactly? Or, more importantly, what will you need to do to make sense of it?
  1. Indulge your curiosity. Whenever you encounter a placename, you will have the opportunity to explore its spatial context (often by seeing it located on a map or series of maps). Spend some time thinking about why where matters.
  2. Look for hypertext. Clicking will take you to pages that offer context or explanation.
  3. Pay attention to the choices at the bottom of each page. The organizing principle of this project is that history is about connectivity: that nothing can be fully understood in isolation. As a result, every item is connected, either by tags or through pathways, to other items (in other words, to other pieces of evidence and analysis).
  4. Finally, this is a work of history, which means that time matters. Try moving through the project using the timeline. But you might also explore the tags that group elements according to political, cultural, and social chronologies.
Whether you choose to navigate by chapter, tag, placename, source, or time period, you will not get lost. The contents of Beautiful Spaces have been carefully selected, documented, and organized. This is a curated space. There are stories to be unearthed.

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