Turin 1911 is a collaborative interdisciplinary project between UC San Diego (namely, the School of Arts & Humanities and the Cultural Heritage Engineering and Innovation Initiative (CHEI) at the Qualcomm Institute, Jacobs School of Engineering), and the Politecnico di Torino (POLITO) with its Laboratory of Geomatics for Cultural Heritage.  The Project integrates information, data, perspectives, techniques, tools, and methodologies from multiple disciplines with the goal of advancing nuanced understanding of the International Exposition of Turin 1911 (and of the World’s Fairs phenomenon in general) that is beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.

As a digital archive, Turin 1911 collects, preserves, and shares thousands of exposition items into a widely accessible and searchable online archive. After the Exposition ended on November 19, 1911 and its buildings were dismantled, most of the Exposition artifacts and materials, many of them ephemeral in nature, were scattered across multiple archives, repositories, and private collections in Italy and abroad. In gathering and curating all these materials in the Turin 1911 website, we implemented best practices in the key areas of navigation, graphical representation, organization, content utility, purpose, simplicity, and readability.


As of today, Turin 1911 is the only existing digital project combining the application of shared international standards for cataloging and controlled terms derived from relevant thesauri with the virtual reconstruction of key areas of the Turin fairgrounds. In the Turin 1911 geodatabase, specific textual and visual data are georeferenced to specific positions in space by means of the relational geo-database structure that provides the georeferencing of the data. Data is published in a 3D webGIS and in the website, which both retrieve data from the same geodatabase.

The 3D webGIS allows access to spatialized information via multiple devices: laptops, tablets and smartphones. An internet connection and a browser are the only requirements needed to navigate the website. With no need for dedicated and costly software, Turin 1911 breaks down the barriers that have typically prevented access to information and analysis of primary sources. The project’s 3D models, all metrically controlled and inserted in the original proper context, are based on the archival materials and constitute the closest rendition of the architectural ephemera that were dismantled soon after the Fair closed its doors. Currently, only the Pavilion of the City of Turin and Siam are available online in specific web apps. These apps integrate each BIM model in the webGIS environment providing the 1911 context of the City of Turin in 2D and 3D, and an orthoimage of the Valentino Park in 2018.


Archival Material Digitization

Extensive archival research yielded unexpected discoveries that triggered specific methodological choices. One of the most substantial finds was the identification of the Fondo Stefano Molli at the Fondazione Marazza in Borgomanero (Novara), Italy. The fondo consists of 588 architectural drawings of Exposition Pavilions and other structures (mainly the Entrance from Corso Cairoli and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, Pavilions of Turin, Modern City, and Art Applied to Industry, Monumental Bridge, Court of Honor, and Monumental Waterfall). The drawings vary from letter-size to 1 or 3 meters in length, and drawing scale dimensions vary from 1:2000 up to 1:10. These size differences required different scanning techniques. While the smaller drawings were scanned with traditional scanners, the larger drawings had to be digitized testing two photogrammetric techniques (image rectification and based on Structure-from-Motion algorithm). All the digital drawings have been cataloged and are now part of the Turin 1911 project.

The Turin 1911 project contains structured terminology for the definition of its materials that is compliant with international standards and it is reported in the Glossary. We based our selection on the Getty Vocabularies, namely the AAT (Art and Architecture Thesaurus), ULAN (Union List of Artist Names), TGN (Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names).


Terms Selection

Given the specificity of the World Fairs’ context, we were able to include new terms to current standard vocabularies, thus participating in the controlled expansion of these vocabularies in ways we hope will be useful to art and cultural heritage professionals as well as the general public. Because of the historical nature of the Turin 1911 project, we paid special attention to the interconnections between historical and current information, and worked to reflect the Getty Vocabularies’ effort to “be ever more multilingual, multicultural, and inclusive, focusing also on diversity, equity, unbiased and antiracist terminology, and accessibility.”