At the beginning of the film Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson asked, “Can you imagine what would it be like to live in 1920s Paris?” This question leads to a central goal of our research project, that is to imagine history in a new light. By creating series of interactive digital maps, our project visualizes and archives musical activities in 1920s Paris, and we will help people to imagine and experience the music life in this time period. In order to create an engaging experience of learning music history, we will use our maps to contextualize musical facts in the historical background, such as local and international influences, and social interactions between social class and significant individuals. We hope that by sharing this knowledge with the public, anyone who is interested in this topic may have their own observations about the music history of 1920s Paris.
This summer, in order to create new maps in a more efficient and accurate way, our team is developing a database that minimizes inaccuracies such as typos and inconsistent formats, and reduces repetitive manual works for each data entry. Based upon this improved interface for data collection, we are also exploring new plug-ins and mapping softwares that provide chronological features so that our products can be more comprehensive and effective in telling historical stories. Besides technological updates, like what the team from last year did, we will have one member traveling to Paris to collect primary sources, from which we will create informative maps that contains original research materials. At the same time, we are also experimenting with making our maps analytical and suggestive, for the purpose of encouraging critical thinkings and unique interpretations derived from information presented on the maps.
Through continuous refinement of this project, our ultimate goal is to make these works accessible to students, teachers, researchers, and also the general public, whenever they are interested in knowing the music history of 1920s Paris. The open resources on our websites, including database, maps and other research works, will be both a teaching tool and a research tool for the viewers. We hope our project will not only be a platform to share knowledge, but also a starting point to discover new perspectives about music history. We believe that music history is beyond lifeless records and facts; it consistently appeals for interpretation and imagination. More subjective than objective, descriptive than prescriptive, music history can not only be learned but also be known and felt, while maps is only one way to do so.