TRANSCRIPT OF DESTRUCTION & DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
Today I will give a presentation on the destruction and digital reconstruction of cultural heritage. This topic is extremely broad and complex, so I have made a conscious effort to outline the most important points in the permitted seven and a half minute time-slot. So please forgive me if I have forgotten to mention something important.
WHAT IS CULTURAL HERITAGE?
UNESCO states that the term ‘cultural heritage’ encompasses several main categories of heritage.
The first type is Tangible Cultural Heritage, and it consists of three sub-groups:
- Movable cultural heritage such as paintings, sculptures, coins, artefacts and manuscripts.
- Immovable cultural heritage such as monuments, archaeological sites, etc.
- Underwater cultural heritage such as shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities.
The second type is Intangible Cultural Heritage, which falls under one group:
- Oral traditions, performing arts, rituals, etc.
WHY IS CULTURAL HERITAGE IMPORTANT?
Cultural heritage constitutes a source of identity, thus a connection to our pasts. Cultural heritage is ubiquitous; it includes land, material objects, beliefs, knowledge, traditions, customs, monuments, and sites. All these gifts have been given to us from generations past, and it is our responsibility to preserve and protect them.
DESTRUCTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
Unfortunately, there are too many examples of wanton destruction of cultural heritage sites from around the world, way too many to mention in this presentation; but I have included 4 famous examples of cultural heritage cleansing which are coming up next.
DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
With the advancement of technology, we are now in a position to reconstruct our heritage through a digital medium using various methods which I will explain in due course
One of the biggest threats to cultural heritage comes from terrorist attacks. In the following examples I have included a short video on the cultural heritage destruction which occurred in Palmyra (Syria) in 2015 and three other examples which include Nimrud (Iraq), Timbuktu (Mali), and the Bamiyan Buddhas (Afghanistan). I am sure most of you have heard about these terrorist attacks, which were despicable and unjustifiable. Terrorism is not the only cause of destruction, vandalism, illegal construction, subsistence digging, and even archaeological digging can also be destructive.
In addition to the destruction caused by human agency, natural disaster also contributes to the destruction of cultural heritage. Earthquakes, erosion, flooding, fire and volcanic eruptions have all played a role in the loss of heritage. A good example to give you would be the recent earthquake in Italy, which caused immeasurable damage to homes and heritage alike.
Digital reconstruction utilises the latest technology for recording moveable and immovable objects. These consist of 3D scanning, laser scanning, and CT scanning. Then there is photogrammetry (structure from motion), and 2.5D – reflectance transformation imaging, panorama.
Following on from the recording of objects, the digital reconstruction can be carried out using 3D modelling software such as agisoft photoscan, and 123D catch for example. On the slide we can see a digital reconstruction of a part of the temple of Bel in Palmyra (Syria).
Virtual reality is a computer technology that uses software to generate realistic images. It is a three dimensional computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. Augmented reality on the other hand is an amalgamation of both the virtual and real world. The difference being that the virtual world is entirely digital, whilst in augmented reality the person can be present at a real archaeological site with either an AR headset, iPad or other applications which aid visualisation.
3D MODELLING: CASE STUDIES
The million image database is a project which is run by the institute for digital archaeology. This is supported by numerous volunteers from conflict areas. These volunteers are equipped with cameras which can take stereo photographs. These images are stored in an open access image database, and used to create reproductions of objects. A great example of this process is the physical reproduction of the arch of Palmyra in Syria, which was created using 3D machining.
The next case study is a 3D reconstruction of Hadrian’s villa. I have included a video of the project in the slide. This video was made from gaming software and illustrates what can be done in relation to recreating archaeological sites.
VIRTUAL REALITY: CASESTUDY
The Samsung digital discovery centre in the British Museum made a project, where they have recreated a virtual Bronze Age roundhouse. This can be experienced by wearing a VR headset, as seen on the slide.
AUGMENTED REALITY: CASESTUDY
Archeoguide is an EU funded augmented reality based cultural heritage onsite guide, which is based in Olympia in Greece. They organise personalised augmented reality tours, which include headsets and tablets that aid the 3D visualisation process of digitally reconstructing and superimposing buildings and temples. The other examples that I have given is the AR telescope at Sagalassos in Turkey, the Berlin Wall app and the London street museum iPhone app.
BENEFITS OF DIGITAL RECONSTRUCTION FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE
- The preservation of cultural heritage.
- Online accessibility to a wider audience.
- Boosting tourism.
- It aids education and research.
- Non-invasive study of objects.
- Raises the profile of cultural heritage institutions.
- Aids collection development in relation to gaps in collections.
- Long-term preservation of digital data could be problematic.
- The establishment of a centralised digital archive such as Europeana. I do feel that this is a challenge as Europeana have over 50 million digitised artworks, books, videos, artefacts and sounds.
- It is a costly process.
- There would be a need for interdisciplinary experts.
- The gargantuan task of digitalising cultural heritage in general.
- Digitising is a slow process and with natural disasters and terrorism, it is simply a race against time.
- Legal challenges.