The Power of the Image: The London Charter (AFF-622)

This blog post is the fourth in a series, The Power of the Image, click here for part 3.

Throughout this series, I have investigated some of the aesthetic, theoretical, and practical implications surrounding Digital Heritage; photorealism, non-photorealistic rendering (NPR), objectivity, authenticity, and reconstruction are all points of interest surrounding the field. However, with such issues constantly being discussed and argued across the community, consensus in some form or another is an issue one needs to consider. The London Charter, which was released in 2006, aims to answer these issues. The importance of developing this lies in the need for the establishment of some kind of ‘guidelines for best practice of heritage visualistion’ (Denard). The Charter is indicative of a need within the heritage community of a need for standardisation of practices, a means of dealing with the supposed challenges involved with visual reconstruction.

Similar organisations, such as the Text-encoding Initiative (TEI) have proven to be very successful with regard to setting a set of standard guidelines for text-based mark-up. However, as investigated in my previous posts, the reconstruction of objects in 3D space whether for preservational or educational reasons can often be trickier in that there can be different challenges presented in visual documentation. Interpretation and subjectivity can often be considerable factors in choosing how best to record or preserve artifacts. Such issues can occur with textual documentation, but elements such as three-dimensional representations or spatial realisations are more prevalent when considering the work of the London Charter. Limitations from hardware or software combined with ambiguity of guidelines are issues that also cannot be ignored, and the London Charter aims to address these issues and give some clarity toward the correct application of subjectivity. Denard points out that where recording a text often happens sequentially with regard to data presentation, a visualisation can present the aim of an author all at once

“In such cases, a visualization – whether static image, real-time model or printed object – might well become the expressive medium of choice, conveying, all at once, the complete, synthetic image of the author’s idea.”

Denard is quick to point out that this aspect of visualisation may not be the most helpful with regard to explanation of intent, certain guidelines may appear more useful than others. In this way, it is easy to imagine that a Charter such as this is going to prove problematic in terms of interpretation, and yet it can also be used as a foundation on which the field can build its guidelines. Carillo et al. point out that to the complexities involved with creating such guidelines, specific guidelines should be created within certain communities of experts (Carillo et al. pg 5). One such example of this is the Principles of Seville, which builds on the work established by the London Charter but also sets about in an effort to further ease of implementation of the Charter in the field. The implementation of the ‘Seville charter’ shows the importance Digital Heritage scholars are placing on not relying on one set of guidelines by which to perform best practice (ie the London Charter), but to build upon these.

There are obvious challenges herein, mainly of the achievement of consensus, though also through issues of obsolescence, which appears to be chief among the issues presented with any field of a digital nature. Indeed, the example set by the London Charter and the addition of the Seville Charter show the need for constant evolution of principles to ensure best practice principles in the field of Digital Heritage.



Carrillo, Juan M.; Gea, J., M., Toval, M.; Fernández, J.,L.; Joaquín Nicolás, A.;  Flores, M, The London Charter and the Seville Principles as sources of requirements for e-archaeology systems development purposes, Virtual Archaeology Review 4.9 (2013), Web, accessed 15 December 2015.

Denard, H.  A New Introduction to the London Charter, 2012, Web, accessed 5 December 2015.

Eiteljorg, H. The Compelling Computer Image – A Double-Edged Sword, 2000, Internet Archaeology 8, Web, accessed 22 December 2015.

Wittur, J; Krömker,S, Lorsch Abbey and the London Charter – an Information System for a World Heritage Site,  2009, Web, accessed 26 December 2015.


Published by


MA Digital Humanities student in An Foras Feasa, Maynooth University. BA Music from Maynooth University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *