Resources/discussion on the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of cultural heritage studies
Three-dimensional digital data capture techniques such as laser scanning hold great promise for preserving and studying cultural heritage objects. However, the immense size of many scanned datasets and the computationally demanding nature of geometric processing algorithms can overwhelm traditional desktop computing environments. To overcome this bottleneck, we will investigate the application of high performance supercomputing resources for processing and analyzing scanned 3D models of cultural heritage. We will develop new algorithms and software to utilize supercomputers for humanities scholarship, including methods for converting raw scan point cloud data to finished 3D surface models, and for automated re-assembly of fragmented archaeological artifacts. We will begin to apply these techniques to large raw scan datasets that we have previously acquired, including notable artistic statuary, important archaeological artifacts, and historical architectural sites.
Since the 1970s, the gallery, library, archive, and museum sector has promoted and encouraged digitization – the conversion of analog into digital information – to increase access to cultural heritage material through various incarnations of digital media. Indeed, it is now expected by both users and professionals that institutions should be undertaking digitization programs, and best practices in this area are now well documented and understood. This chapter scopes out the background to the current digitization environment, giving an overview of the methods and approaches involved. It points to current developments, highlighting the use of both two and three dimensional capture methods for the creation of digital surrogates of objects and artefacts, indicating the potential for further development in the sector, whilst drawing attention to current issues faced when digitizing objects and artefacts including cost, sustainability, impact evaluation, and expectation management in the changing information environment. The affordances of previously prohibitively expensive techniques – such as multi-spectral imaging and 3D scanning – are now available at relatively inexpensive rates, which also raises questions about digital literacy and our understanding of what it means, for both the end user and information professional, to create digital versions of our cultural inheritance.
The purpose of this study is to explore whether the current UK legislation on orphan works, in the form of an EU exception and an orphan works license scheme, is effective in enabling the mass digitization of orphan works by cultural heritage organisations. The research covers the barriers faced by cultural heritage organisations wishing to digitize orphan works, the scale of the orphan works problem, the approach taken to orphan works prior to the introduction of the legislation, and the nature of the diligent search requirements of the directive and license scheme. The project uses a mixed methods approach to conduct primary research that explores the extent of adoption of the orphan works schemes amongst cultural heritage organisations. The study took a mixed methods approach combining an online questionnaire with interviews of information professionals with knowledge of digitising orphan works, to capture a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data about the digitisation of orphan works by UK institutions. The study shows that neither scheme has been widely adopted amongst UK cultural heritage organisations with the majority of organisations taking a risk managed approach to digitisation of orphan works. It finds that the requirements for diligent search are a key barrier to the adoption and use of the schemes. It also shows that the cost of clearing rights, diligent search and licensing are a significant obstacle, reflecting previous research in this area. The survey was limited to the UK Cultural Heritage Institutions, and the overall sample size was small. A future study could include views from the Intellectual Property Office and professional bodies such as CILIP. Originality: This is the first mixed methods study into orphan works, since the introduction of the current legislation. It presents a mix of qualitative and quantitative data, which could be built upon in future studies.
Tools of digital information management are being used to preserve and make accessible the cultural heritage of marginalised groups traditionally excluded from mainstream cultural heritage institutions, such as LGBTQ and communities of colour. Alongside the explosion of digital collections, critics are now questioning the extent to which these technologies are being employed to challenge the perpetuation of oppressive traditional archival practices based on dominant archival epistemologies. Recent examples of the inappropriate use of digital information technologies with collections sourced from marginalised communities have seen the structural inequalities experienced by LGBTQ and people of colour intersecting with ethical and legal issues produced within the digital environment. This study investigates discourses relating to this intersection through analysis of online documentation and interviews with five London-based archivists, para-archivists and LIS professionals from the British Library, the Bishopsgate Institute, the National Archives, the London Metropolitan Archives and the rukus! archive. Particular attention is paid to queer, trans and intersex people of colour (QTIPOC) collections and the impact of intersectionality on information practices. Critical discourse analysis combined with a queer of colour critique was used to construct a range of themes from the texts, which include relationships between cultural heritage institutions with community groups; the interplay between ethics and the law and digital information technologies; the ephemerality of the QTIPOC archive; and strategies of control that can be employed by QTIPOC communities over their own cultural heritage. Many of these themes were salient for a number of the institutions involved in the study, and as such, they may provide a basis for future research which could contribute to ethical guidance for cultural heritage institutions working with QTIPOC collections in the digital environment.
Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and editorial studies, Anglo-Saxon Studies, Cultural Heritage, 3D visualistion
Film archives still linger at the fringes of the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums sector. However, in the opinion of this author, they are the logical partners when it comes to the curation, publication, exploration, and interconnection of online resources. I intend to address some of the obstacles which have so far prevented more successful collaborations and projects, as well as present positive examples of interdisciplinary exchange within the field. Modern universities still tend to separate scholarship from curation, a fact that is hardly deniable. The latter is normally reduced to a secondary and supportive role, while the digital humanities instead commit themselves explicitly to a new definition of the “scholar as curator and curator as scholar.” Lev Manovich, who coined the term “cultural analytics,” is among the pioneers in the field who work on projects that unite cultures and institutions. My own work with Manovich on the visualization of filmic structures in the films by the Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov can serve as a model for successful collaboration between a film archive and a research institution.
As cultural heritage collections become available online they carry the promise of ‘access’ – new audiences, new uses, new understandings. But access is never simply open. Limits are imposed, structures are defined, categories are created. Decisions are made about what gets digitised and why. This chapter will describe a series of experiments within online cultural heritage collections to investigate the meaning of access. What happens, for example, if we invert the usual processes of discovery and focus on records in the National Archives of Australia that have been withheld from public view? What does our history look like if we restrict our gaze only to resources that have been digitised? By manipulating the contexts of cultural heritage collections we can start to see their limits and biases. By hacking heritage we can move beyond search interfaces and image galleries to develop an understanding of what’s missing.
My interests range from the history of archaeology, cultural heritage preservation, and museum studies to the art and archaeology of ancient Iranian empires, from the Achaemenids to the Sasanians. I am currently involved in the exploration of the World Heritage site of Pasargadae, the first dynastic site of the Persian empire in the sixth century B.C.
A Preservation and Access: Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections implementation grant application to fund a capital improvement project to upgrade the heat and air conditioning system software and replace the two networks of sensors and controllers that automate the system that provides a preservation storage environment for the Center’s 93,750 square feet of collection storage space.