2016 VHN conference at University College Cork was a fantastic occasion to listen to inspiring talks and being introduced to interesting research projects. By far, the variety of covered topics was the best feature of the conference since it presented a wide spectrum of existing opportunities for further work both in the area of Virtual Heritage, as well as Digital Humanities. If one was skeptical before about the interdisciplinary character of DH and VH, this conference proved it to be true by bringing together many scholars from different backgrounds who use similar tools often for vast types of research.
There were many interesting papers, but I would like to highlight only a few that particularly caught my attention. Megan Kasten spoke about the use of RTI method and 3D models in reconstruction of the Govan Stones. Not only did she use the RTI technique to analyze chosen worn off features on the surviving stones, but also used some of the Agisoft features to recreate the deterioration process on her 3D models. She argued that it allowed her to determine which patterns were used on the badly damaged stones (as seen on her reconstruction shown on the photo below). Although often deterioration made it too difficult to see the cravings with bare eyes, Kasten was able to recreate many patterns which were enhanced during RTI capturing. Personally, I found it fascinating to see the reconstruction possibilities offered by these two methods. It is one thing to read about them, but another to hear a scholar talking about using them in practice and showing the results in simulations.
Although the creators of the “Museum in a Box” project did not make it to the conference, it was by far the most interesting talk (presented in the form of video) due to its innovative approach to how we perceive, interact with museums and what we expect of them. The idea of bringing museums closer to the audience and to get students more engaged with given subject through interaction is, in my opinion, the direction museums should pursue. What is quite exciting about this project is the fact that it can work in two ways: it can replay the recordings e.g. with sounds animals make, information about artifacts or music from period of interest. But it can also act like a ‘letter in a bottle’ and allow students (or any other individual using the Box) to record their own thoughts on the objects included in the set, which can then be shared with the next owner of the box. It creates a sense of communal curation, which is very beneficial to both the audience and the heritage itself since it is the interest in the past that fuels our attempts to preserve the history.
The VHN conference was definitely a success and held my interest from the very beginning till the end. Yet, there was one issue that made me concerned about some of the research projects: that is the ease ethnography was used as a research tool without being acknowledged nor being properly conducted (mainly from ethical point of view, concerning protection of one’s sources and their identity). O’Flaherty, Tierney and Egan all listed ‘interviews’ as a way of gathering context for their researched objects, yet they never credited the sources. They spoke about it in rather nonchalant manner, saying that ‘informal’ interviews were the way of getting interesting information that might not be accessible through formal interview. As much as I can understand their worries, it strikes me as rather unethical way of obtaining information since the people they’ve spoken to might have been (unintentionally) deceived. I believe that if there is more effort put towards introducing anthropology to Digital Humanities, such errors could be omitted in the future.
Kasten, Megan. https://twitter.com/3Dgroovanstones. Web. 11 December 2016.
Museum in a Box. http://museuminabox.org/. Web. 11 December 2016.
VHN Ireland. Conference 2016. http://www.vhnireland.org/conference-2016/. Web. 11 December 2016.