Digital Reconstruction in Archaeology and Contemporary Performance

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Computing Department

Abstract

Digital technology can provide a mechanism to access cultural artefacts that would otherwise be lost or inaccessible. This inaccessibility could be due to many reasons but commonly because the artefact

* could be associated with a site that is no longer in existence. This applies to archaeological sites, but is equally applicable to contemporary site specific art practice

* could be innately ephemeral, for example dance or performance, which does not persist after the event

These considerations apply to cultural events and artefacts throughout history, but particularly interesting parallels can be drawn between the ancient sites studied by archeologists and contemporary site specific and ephemeral performance. Once a site specific performance has ended it is not possible to recreate it faithfully in a new location. However, it is important that academics and members of the public can study and understand past performances. This mirrors the situation in archaeology where the original sites are lost (at least in their original form) but they must still be represented to the public and to scholars based on the limited artefacts remaining. In both cases digital technologies can help to access and reconstruct sites and events. The remaining artefacts themselves often do little to convey the experience of the original. Digital reconstruction can help understand the experience of a site or event and communicate narratives. Collaborative and networked technologies can convey shared experiences. However, any such reconstruction involves multiple interpretations and potentially many narratives can be told about a single site or event.

This project will explore the use of digital technology for documenting sites and events in archaeology and contemporary art and performance. It will investigate how the two disciplines can influence each other's use of technology and how new technologies can be applied.

The project will consist of interdisciplinary workshops including academics, technologists and working arts practitioners (who will act as end users).

Planned Impact

The impact of this project will go well beyond academia.

The use of digital technology for representing and reconstructing sites and events is a powerful way to communicate culture and heritage to the public. This will benefit museums, historic sites and other heritage locations (At least one representative of these areas will be invited to the workshop). They will be able to better communicate to the public and attract a wider public. Their educational mission will particularly benefit as they are better able to their sites and artefacts to the public and students, particularly in terms of the context, narratives and experiences associated with them. A particular theme of the project will be the multiplicity of interpretations and narratives that are possible. Making these explicit can help the public to gain a deeper understanding of both the academic process and the artefacts themselves, than would be possible by presenting a single interpretation and narrative.

High speed broad band would make it possible to disseminate high quality digital representations of cultural sites and events to a wide public that would not otherwise be able to access them. This would increase access to cultural heritage to new demographics and improve levels of cultural education nationally. It can also potentially open new revenue streams for cultural organisations by making on line materials available.

The project also aims to impact the work of contemporary performers and artists (representatives will be invited). Performers and artists working in site specific and ephemeral forms currently able to maintain very little of their performances once they are finished. Digital technology would enable them to provide a fuller record for scholars and the public. This would enable them to communicate their work better to a public that has not previously experienced it (often a problem with highly site specific work). This will enable them to increase their audience and possibly create new revenue streams around dissemination of these digital representations. The accessibility to the public of contemporary performance will also be increased as a geographically dispersed public will be able to appreciate what is normally a very geographically specific medium. Greater geographic dissemination of site specific works will also benefit the performers themselves, as they will have greater access to the work of other performers.

Publications

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Description Marco Gillies is currently working with the British Museum Samsung Digital Discovery Centre on developing digital education workshops around themes developed in the project. 
Organisation British Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report
 
Description Maureen Thomas and Bruce Bradley are preparing a Knowledge Transfer project with the Albert Museum Exeter around multiple narratives within museums. 
Organisation Royal Albert Memorial Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report
 
Description We are still engaged in discussion with a number of institutions about possible research projects in this area including the UCL Petri Museum, University of Southampton and the Kings College London. 
Organisation King's College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report
 
Description We are still engaged in discussion with a number of institutions about possible research projects in this area including the UCL Petri Museum, University of Southampton and the Kings College London. 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report
 
Description We are still engaged in discussion with a number of institutions about possible research projects in this area including the UCL Petri Museum, University of Southampton and the Kings College London. 
Organisation University of Southampton
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Information taken from Final Report