Tianjin platform. A website to trace the collective inquiry conducted by The Volunteers for the protection of Tianjin's architectural heritage (2008-2012)

This website presents a local and collective inquiry conducted by The Volunteers for the protection of Tianjin's architectural heritage, between 2008 and 2012. It belongs to the ANR Tianjin project.

About The Volunteers

In 2008, a group of some twenty Tianjin residents,  out of concern with the massive destruction observed in the city’s historic districts for over a decade, organized themselves in "The Volunteers for the protection of Tianjin's architectural heritage" following a complex procedure. Soon, The Volunteers, whose ranks grew to about sixty people, engaged in both actions to protect the architectural heritage and historiographical research. They turned into amateur historians in order to conduct research on the buildings and districts of the city, to comprehend their importance - historical, architectural or aesthetic - in order to demonstrate the necessity to preserve them and to integrate them into the urban fabric and its history.
They have managed to preserve a hundred or so buildings from destruction and to "recover" the identity of nearly two hundred buildings. What is more, the historical investigation they conducted went further. Despite they could not  access official archives, the Volunteers exhumed and collated private archives, collected oral testimonies from residents, gathered geographical maps from different periods, old postcards showing buildings and streets that have now disappeared or that, conversely, display the transformation of buildings and neighbourhoods. They acted as archivists for local radio broadcast by interviewing older residents regarding various locations in the city.
The collective inquiry they carried out was fruitful, ranging from the various locations in the city to the life and activities of its inhabitants. They gradually built up an unprecedented library and a collective archive. They also conducted actual collective research --with the aim of lifting doubts on the locations at stake-- by confronting the materials gathered, in an attempt to interpret them and fill in the grey areas or conundrums uncovered by their investigation. This collective investigation was followed up, consolidated and reported on their website Memory of Tianjin (no longer accessible), as well as by means of the roughly 200 issues of the internal newsletter they curated.


About this platform

This Tianjin platform was set up with Oronce Fine, a semantic-web enabled platform for the publication, integration and exploration of geo-historical resources, developed by the Geomatic Platform of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (Plateforme géomatique de l’École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales, Paris, France). Relying on the possibilities offered by Oronce Fine, this website aims to trace the collective inquiry carried out by The Volunteers, by restituting moments of investigation around a particular building as they could be viewed on their website, and by showing the type of materials used for comparison: geographical maps from a variety of periods, old postcards, radio broadcast archives, texts. In order to better understand, fix and describe the collective inquiry of The Volunteers, other materials have been collected by the research team of the ANR Tianjin project, and are also displayed on this platform.


Project consortium and funding

This project was funded by the National Research Agency.

It is coordinated by the Centre d’Études sur la Chine Moderne et Contemporaine (CECMC, under the supervision of the French National Center for Scientific Research or CNRS and the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences or EHESS). Its institutional partners are the Geomatics Platform of EHESS and BL SET.