The LOTB project has developed an unprecedented website for research and teaching about the Buddha’s life story. It focuses on the upper gallery murals at Phuntsokling to document Tibet’s most significant literary and visual materials depicting the life of Śākyamuni Buddha. The LOTB website provides a multimodal interface for interactive visualization including representation at various scales, markup of text-image relationships, tagging and annotation, and qualitative and quantitative data analysis. The interface allows, for the first time, comparative analysis across visual narrative (Jonang murals), textual narrative (The Sun of Faith), and the guidelines for visual narrative construction (Painting Manual), as well as painting inscriptions and the author’s canonical sources. The interface allows users to select text in both unicode Tibetan font and English translation.
Through the website, researchers are able to navigate chronologically or non-linearly through the visual narrative according to the divisions of a literary work, and select foci to zoom and center a particular panel region. Through the use of keyword search functionality, users can identify visual elements on both macro and micro scales (individual figures, locations, narrative vignettes) to understand their narrative and thematic relationships. The ability to share insights, questions, and even debates across two distinctive forms of media, visual and textual, allows researchers in fields as varied as religious studies, philology, history, art history, and architectural history to address a common object of interest, the life of the Buddha, in a synthetic fashion.
LOTB uses the Mirador Viewer, a “multi-repository, configurable, extensible, and easy-to-integrate viewer and annotation creation and comparison environment for IIIF resources, ranging from deep-zooming artwork, to complex manuscript objects.” LOTB has adapted and extended Mirador’s suite of tools to offer scholarly and learning communities a new platform to research and engage image, text, architecture, and history as an integrated and meaning-rich whole. The project’s impacts for the humanities and the study of Buddhism are thus twofold: the largest study to date on visual and textual Buddha narratives in Tibet, and a new digital tool for synthetic teaching and research of Buddhist images and texts in context. The features developed in LOTB are extensible to content and disciplinary approaches across a broad array of scholarly fields.
The project utilizes various Open Source technologies and tools to create a comprehensive system for searching, navigating, viewing, and annotating images. The combined architecture of these components allow for a fully functioning system. Many of the components sourced and developed are compliant with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) to allow for cross institutional sharing of images and tools. Yale contributes to IIIF standard and related open source tool development via support of this project.