Virtual Heritage: A Guide

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Virtual Heritage: A Guide is a comprehensive publication covering all aspects of digital and virtual heritage. The guide includes technologies available, practical examples, conceptual and ethical considerations.

We have initially covered the subjects in our past post “Virtual Heritage: what now?“, specifically, the available technologies and their current place in the museum environment as a communication and engagement tool.

This publication answers a real need in the field of digital humanities as virtual heritage and digital archaeology are very recent practices lacking, therefore, policy and guidelines.

Here is an overview of the chapters: 

1. Speculating the Past: 3D Reconstruction in Archaeology:

details the methods, advantages of 3D approximations as a presentation method. With 3d reconstruction, a user creates a model based on a real archaeological artefact or theory.  This chapter covers the history, definitions, processes and uses of 3D reconstruction. For example, video games offer interactive visitor experiences and better present archaeological information through 3D approximation.  While the practice is promising, further research is needed on the theoretical background and tackling the ever-present issue of inaccurate heritage representations.

2. Photogrammetry: What, How, and Where:

covers 3D digital models through image-based 3D modelling photogrammetry software. Photogrammetry is a cost-effective solution in comparison to 3D reconstruction or laser scanning.  Furthermore, the chapter proposes several examples of commercial services and applications supporting massive data processing and many free and open-source tools.   Image-based 3D modelling has many benefits as a digital documentation and preservation tool.

3. Animating Past Worlds:

discusses heritage interpretations with immersive digital worlds. Specifically, the chapter describes the basics of animation, detailing visual effects, movement, textures, lighting, rendering and elements necessary to bring an environment to life.  Offers several examples of games, software and uses. Furthermore,  this chapter puts forward the danger of virtual environments being misconstrued as accurate historical representations.

4. Mapping Ancient Heritage Narratives with Digital Tools:

describes the digital Periegesis project that uses Pausanias’s second-century CE Periegesis Hellados text as a database for analysis and mapping.  This chapter points out that Pausanias’s spatial (re)imagining of Greece can be a narrative interpreted through digital tools for identifying, visualising and analysing spatial data.

5. Hybrid Interactions in Museums: Why Materiality Still Matters:

presents hybrid interactions in museums where digital tools successfully transcend the physical and multisensory attributes of museum collections. The chapter offers several examples of projects and stresses the importance of incorporating tangible and complex elements of heritage into digital design.

6. Video Games as Concepts and Experiences of the Past:

discusses the growing field of archaeogaming and describes the value of video games and playing with the past, past play. Additionally, this chapter contains case studies of Assassin’s Creed, Never  Alone, RoMeincraft and No Man’s Sky Archaeological Survey.

7. Mixed Reality: A Bridge or a Fusion Between Two Worlds?:

displays the benefits and applications of Mixed Reality (MxR) from both the view of virtual heritage and as an immersive technology.

8. Getting It Right and Getting It Wrong in Digital Archaeological Ethics:

offers considerations of the archaeological ethics on the digital tools and methodologies used.

9. Evaluation in Virtual Heritage:

focuses on the evaluation of virtual heritage, its importance, dimensions (user experience, usability, perceived usability, engagement, accessibility and learning), possible approaches and methodologies for assessment.

10. Preserving Authenticity in Virtual Heritage:

reviews virtual heritage as a preservation tool and examines how authenticity, one of the fundamental values of cultural heritage,  fits in this context.

Our take:

Whether you are a heritage professional or learning the process and tools of virtual and digital models and environments this guide is a must-read.

 Virtual heritage is rapidly growing along with new technologies, however, adapting is not feasible for all heritage institutions, let alone developing the policies and methodologies necessary. We hope to cover the topics discussed in further detail with future posts.

I want to learn more:

Virtual Heritage: A Guide, edited by Erik M Champion

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