Quick note! I promised to write up the second half of Brains Eden last week but have failed to do so as I have been mad busy at a slew of conferences and construction sessions (this current post included) – I will endevour to write up the rest of it over the next couple of days and get it posted ASAP!


Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Centre for Digital Heritage Workshop, hosted right here at the University of York. The day covered off a huge array of digital heritage topics – from virtual reconstructions to NLP – and thrillingly enough for me video-games featured prominently in presentations and discussions. In this post I will quickly throw down some of the overarching themes for the day before providing links to all the great projects which were on display. I am in the process of loading my own presentation up and will write a separate post soon about it, but for now, without further ado:

The presentations from the first session of the day (Louise Hampson, Gareth Beale and Alex Southern, Aglaia Foteinou and Damian Murphy)  had a focus on the role of heritage professionals in communicating, facilitating and interacting with community groups and the general public. Common themes regarding the communication of accuracy to consumers came up consistently in the panel as well as the importance of facilitating engagement at all levels of the data cycle. Transparency in processes and outcome alongside step by step guides were elements of best practice which all the projects had pursued and the final presentation by Southern et al also stressed the need to collect digital data outside of the visual.

The second session, in which I was presenting, had a focus on digital technologies (specifically augmented reality and video-games) in heritage contexts. The brilliant Colleen Morgan presented her collaborative work on Time Warpp, demonstrating the potential which virtual reality interventions have for challenging the way we collect and present data. My presentation followed on from Colleen’s, demonstrating the back-story, methodology and current state of my PhD research through an interactive twine creation which I will post about in more detail later. Sam Devlin and Peter Cowling rounded off the session – discussing the exciting prospects for crossover between industry, computer science, research and heritage. The three key themes of this session were the exciting affordances of the video-game and virtual-reality media forms, how we might seek to engage with these on their own rights and the need to engage with practitioners from outside our own isolated field to understand, challenge and grow our practices.

The next session of the day brought a turn towards the technical with Peter Jensen, Fabrizio Galeazzi and Helen Petrie presenting on the development of their software / API entities, namely a cross-platform 3D documentation platform, a web based 3D viewer and ChartEX. The key discussion points which were similar across all presentations was the changing view of 3D and digital technologies as objective methods and instead the need to make evident the subjective elements in capture, processing, interpretation and display. A further strand of critique was bought into this discussion by Helen Petrie in the discussion of developing ChartEX – during the creation process she discovered that the more learned we become in a subject the less we explicitly see or question our own practices:

The workshop was rounded off by Michael Charno (discussing the use of NLP to extract metadata from Grey Literature), Nicole Beale (discussing her research into the role of technologies in collections management at museums) and Jen Mitcham, Gary Brannan and Julie Allinson (discussing their work on the Archbishops’ Registers). These sessions picked up strands from the previous discussions and teased them out. Michael’s discussion of NLP spoke to the importance of charting our own processes and of the power of technologies when harnessed in ways which have reference and relevance to their own affordances in conjuction with the heritage realm which they are being applied to. Nicole’s eye opening talk discussed the need to engage communities with the data cycle at the various different levels using technologies and processes which are appropriate to the institutions and groups being targeted. She spoke of the need to provide skills and meaningful outcomes for those which we are engaging and the role which social media can have when effectively leveraged. Finally the Archbishops’ Registers team spoke on how archives are not a “one size fits all” deal and the need to research, record and store data with reference to the material being produced. The closing discussion for the session revolved around the role of crowd-sourcing and crowd-engagement in specialist topics.

The workshop was a fantastic opportunity to engage with a huge range of projects occurring across digital heritage. The discussions were open, constructively critical and cross-disciplinary, allowing for new perspectives on old and emerging issues. I would like to extend my thanks to the CDH team for organising such a lively event as well as to the other speakers and audience members for such fruitful discussion.

Links to the various projects and external entities mentioned during discussion can be found below: