Session 11 — Accessing Italian Cultural Heritage and digital dialogue

Friday 11:30 - 13:00

High Tor 3

Digital imaging, imagining and imitation of historic interiors

  • Graeme Earl

King's College London

The research underlying this paper examines the variety of approaches taken to record and simulate Roman architectural spaces. I will consider different motivations for the linking of creative digital practises to architectural studies and introduce the core terminology, including the implications of alternative graphical processes which in turn define the anatomy of digital worlds. This modelling anatomy is one that has been artificially structured around a discrete sensory taxonomy and so this paper will problematize such an approach, suggesting we might concentrate more usefully in the nature of the encounters our modelling affords, the memories it evokes and creates and the impact of factors such as perceived status on the representation choices made for given examples of architecture.

Having modelled past environments, we are increasingly able to augment them, and to bring their digital manifestation into the physical world. The paper will therefore also point towards the consequences of this fluid interaction in the context of, for example, mixed reality, gamification and accessibility. Does our striving for visual or acoustic realism miss the opportunities of more expressive modes of interaction, where replication of physical phenomena is less significant than a reflection on the spaces as lived and as socially constructed?

British Art and the Mediterranean

  • Mick Finch

Central Saint Martins

British Art and the Mediterranean (BAM) is a radical and significant case study for the history of academic action and responsibility in relation to distinct technical apparatuses, both historically and in terms of focusing upon the current technical moment. BAM is a project based on the task of assessing the 1941 exhibition of the same name curated by Fritz Saxl and Rodolf Wittkower, then director and photographic curator of the Warburg Institute in London, a research institute dedicated to the study of the classical tradition. Saxl and Wittkower, two émigrés scholars from Germany who used the format and the medium of a photographic exhibition to explore a common European culture in a time of war. They positioned themselves in relation to the moment of conflict of nations on the basis of their expertise in the humanities, namely as art historians.

The archive of the exhibition has survived intact at the Warburg Institute, including the exhibition photographs, the glass slides, materials preparing both the exhibition and subsequent publications and correspondence between Saxl and other major players, such as Kenneth Clark, then director of the National Gallery. This valuable resource has been relatively untapped to date. Only two published articles explore the exhibition and its place in Aby Warburg’s methodology, but none engage with the material archive itself or the question of how it relates to Warburg’s technical apparatus. It was an endeavour that was to later feed into the DNA of other image-driven agendas, particularly the broadcasting of the BBC’s programmes Civilisation (Kenneth Clark, 1969) and Ways of Seeing (John Berger, 1972). Evident here is the task of disseminating scholarly knowledge in accessible ways.

The Archaeology of Portus Massive Open Online Course

  • Eleonora Gandolfi

University of Southampton

The Archaeology of Portus Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is a six week long online course hosted by FutureLearn. The course is structured around 4 hours per week of learner effort and has run six times since 2014. It was one of the first FutureLearn courses and was the focus of considerable experimentation, structured around the affordances of the social learning model and the opportunities to integrate a variety of digital interactions within a single course. It introduces learners to the archaeology of Portus, the Port of Imperial Rome, and provides a sense of the historical context, the work undertaken on site and the methods employed. It also uses Portus as a mechanism for introducing key research ideas in Roman archaeology. This paper discusses this course in relation to a broader “open scholarship spectrum” for Portus – a trajectory from mass broadcast media, via citizen science, online tours and open education, through to individual, novel research with open access publications, open data and tools. The paper explores the potential role for open education at the heart of this journey. More specifically, the paper will examine the use that the course materials can have in broader engagements with learners – including Italian school children – and their impact on awareness of Roman cultural heritage in Italy.

Creating a Digital Portal: repositioning the BSR’s Digital Collections

  • Alessandra Giovenco,
  • Beatrice Gelosia,
  • Valerie Scott

British School at Rome

The British School at Rome has a world class research Library and Archives include Special Collections of early guides to Rome, engravings, maps and manuscripts as well as unique collections of photographs and personal archives and documents relating to the history and activities of the BSR. Digitisation projects accompanied by rich metadata began in 2002 with the cataloguing of 15,000 images and the creation of the BSR Digital Collections website in 2009. The aim was simply to make available online our unique material. From the outset priority was given to the use of international standards and interoperability of our data and to guaranteeing the long-term conservation of both digital images and metadata (METS).

Today the Library and Archive also generate original international research projects on the collections, the results of which will be peer reviewed and published online together with the digitized version of the material studied. Three separate collaborative projects are ongoing: William Gell’s notebooks, the John Marshall Archive and the Digital Cartography of the Roman Campagna. We need now to present these initiatives in a single portal, facilitating access, engaging with a wider public, generating interactive and collaborative research, integrating local and external resources. Our methodology so far has been to research other realities and examples, both international and local, to study the results achieved by similar small institutions, to consult both local and international professionals, to carry out a user survey, to organize two workshops, one on Digital Cartography and the most recent, in collaboration with the European Space Agency, on Digital Cultural Heritage, to select and implement open source software for the description and management of archival resources and to collaborate with King’s College London, Department of Digital Humanities to further define our goals.

Our ambition is to enhance our output, moving from consultation, conservation and specialist research to offering more dynamic interactions with digital data, including crowdsourcing and citizen science.

Eye-tracking architecture: using digital eye-tracking technology to investigate the viewing of baroque architecture in Rome.

  • Patrick O’Keeffe

British School at Rome

In autumn 2017 I began a research proposal that utilised eye-tracking technology to investigate how six subjects from different academic backgrounds viewed two baroque buildings in Rome.

The proposal was formed while working within the interdisciplinary environment of the British School at Rome as part of the Giles Worsley Rome fellowship, 2017-2018; the subjects comprised fellow researchers, including artists, archaeologists and historians, thus providing the required academic cross-section for investigation. The methodology first required the construction of an eye-tracking headset and utilisation of open-source software. Two Baroque buildings of a similar date and scale were then chosen: Francesco Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Sant’Andrea al Quirinale. Six test subjects were each tested in both buildings. Each observer was seated, fitted with the eye-tracking headset and given a starting focal point. The two cameras were set with one facing the subject’s eye and the other at the scene; the equipment was then calibrated. Recordings of the eye movements and focal routes were taken, ending only when the focal point reached a set position in each building.

The results of these initial tests suggest that the architectural differences between each building influenced how the subjects viewed the spaces more than their individual academic backgrounds, with similar focal points and viewing patterns being observed between subjects within each building. The analysis and presentation of the investigation required a combination of 3D scanning, 3D computer modelling and 3D printing to produce physical models and digital drawings of the results to convey the findings. This work forms part of my continuum of exploration into how digital technologies can be utilised within architectural research, including the use of augmented reality and 3D scanning within architectural pedagogy.

Earth Observation for Cultural Heritage

  • Christopher Stewart

European Space Agency

The increasing demand for resources fuelled by a growing population is endangering the irreplaceable archaeological record. This creates escalating needs for its detection, monitoring and preservation.  Techniques for archaeological site detection and monitoring which are operated remotely offer the advantages of providing a synoptic view, covering large areas, frequently and at low cost. Just as the best perspective from which to see the proverbial wood from the trees may be remote, traces of buried features can often only be seen from afar. Archaeologists now have an increasing choice of remote platforms from which to base their measurements, from low altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and high altitude airborne platforms, to spaceborne satellites orbiting the Earth. Some archaeological traces are notoriously ephemeral and appear only briefly on the occasions of rare ground and atmospheric conditions. This is often the case with archaeological crop marks, which may require a high acquisition frequency to capture a moment when such features emerge. Remote sensing instruments commonly seek information about a target by measuring its interaction with electromagnetic radiation. Different wavelength regions of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum can provide unique information about objects on or beneath the surface in a wide range of geographical regions, over both land and water.

Successive technological revolutions are precipitating a complete transformation in scientific and operational geospatial analysis. Big Data Analytics and the positive trend in the availability, accessibility and openness of data are favouring a more prominent emergence of spaceborne remote sensing (or “Earth Observation”) in cultural heritage applications. An overview will be provided here of the state of the art in the use of remote (mainly spaceborne) active and passive techniques, covering a wide range of the electromagnetic spectrum, for the detection, monitoring and management of tangible cultural heritage.