14 May 2014

New technology in Digital Culture Hertage #BLdigital

Last week, I attended the Digital Conversations: Digital Cultural Heritage seminar at the British Library #BLdigital. It involved a select panel discussion chaired by Paul Gooding (DPC) with Andrew Bevan (Institute of Archaeology, UCL), Kate Devlin (Dept. of Computing, Goldsmiths), Nick Short (Royal Veterinary College) and Professor Melissa Terras (UCLDH). 

What was most interesting to me was just how varied digitisation and new technology in 3D imaging and computer modelling is spreading in terms of cultural heritage organisations for art, archaeology, history and in libraries, archives, museums and galleries sector. Currently, we already have the best quality, colour and storage capabilities but now there is a need to allow people to see an image in various ways through image processing. For example, Melissa Terras explains that in order to know how best to capture information for damaged text or fragile items is to test re-create the damage (e.g. archival paper with blood splatter or partially burnt book pages) and then create 3D model. Testing these 3D models could assist you to read text you could not before without further damaging the physical resource. The pilot study data could then be released to then educate and create policy for similar organisations and technology.

Andrew Bevan’s “structure for motion and excavation 3D modelling for archaeology” presentation also highlighted the idea of data curation but focused more on public outreach in terms of using scientists and the general public to gather data in a crowd sourcing model. Then, developing typology and taxonomy to understand the differences in eras between similar archaeological discoveries e.g. bronze age and medieval-age weaponry and matching ears to different moulders in the making of China’s Terracotta Warriors. Kate Devlin had a more psychological approach by analysing the ‘perceptions of the past in digital cultural heritage’ through modelling light differences in artist reconstructions to access changes in public response on perceptual realism. Nick Short also took another angle by looking at the digitising veterinary educational resources for e-learning in the Royal Veterinary College amidst aging dissected animals in pots.
One of the biggest issues and something to think about for the future is the ethics involved with digital restoration and the affects of manipulation on the true representation of the original source. Questions such as: 'How can you check if the evidence is true if the material too fragile to touch and unravel or no longer exists?' really hit home for me and got me thinking. How can we rely on the evidence if data about how it was gathered is not accessible through open access? My assessment is that digitisation can only aid in collecting knowledge but that collection of data needs to open and freely communicated to the public. I am definitely sure that I will be on the lookout for more innovative advances in technology for cultural heritage, as a method for preservation in study material culture in the British Library's Digital Conversations series.

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