“Building a digital hub of ressources on mineral waters 1650-1850”: Sophie Vasset and François Zanetti (ICT UP) awarded an Emergence 2021 grant

Posted on January 4, 2022

Sophie Vasset, lecturer at Université de Paris and member of the LARCA , and François Zanetti (ICT Université de Paris), are awarded the Emergence en Recherche 2021, a Université de Paris starting grant providing seed money for their project “Building a digital hub of ressources on mineral waters 1650-1850” (« Réseau documentaire et historique sur les eaux minérales 1650-1850 » (Res-Sources)).

In the 18th century, mineral waters were crucial in developping medical knowledge and practices and they are currently the object of multiple historical research projects that renew the field.

Element of a pharmacopeia that had been reconfigurated by the transformations of chemistry, mineral waters were also part of a neohippocratic approach that emphasized the influence of environment on health. This therapeutic resource was notably used to cure chronic illnesses. Given the specificities of their economical and geographical accessibility, public authorities were particularly interested in using them to treat poor people and soldiers. 

The study of mineral waters in the 18th century led to an accumulation of data produced by various individuals and medical and bureaucratic institutions. This early example of “information overload” is a challenge for conservation, access, analysis and interpretation. Just like doctors and administrators circa 1800, we are confronted with methdological and practical questions with data that come from chemical analysis and clinical observations from hundreds of localities. 

From the perspective of the material history of knowledge, we want to (1) interrogate the practices and tools elaborated by scholars to collect and analyze the data related to mineral waters and (2) use contemporary IT tools to develop prototypes to visualize these data. We want to reflect transhistorically on the dynamics of production, management and usage of these data within the context of research and medicine.

At the crossroads of medical and digital numanities, the Res-Sources project will act as a catalyst for better inter-knowledge and collaboration for research teams at Université de Paris, which are experts in historical research, conservation, digitization and indexation, geographical information systems and cartography, textual research and networks visualization.