While digital heritage scholars can now rely on a definitely more sophisticated range of options than previous generations, including cloud repositories and “free” online services, such tools did not “ease the problem of maintainability or sustainability – especially for high quality digital scholarship” (Smithies et al. 2019). Over the last three decades the significant increase of CH projects exploiting 3D technologies has created a vast amount of data, which has become a pressing issue in terms of safeguarding this data for the future. Too often short-term funding abruptly suspends the development of sustainable solutions for the problem of storage and obsolescence of 3D data. An entire corpus of legacy projects in need of maintenance and preservation have outlived their budget and have now reached a turning point in their digital lifecycle. Undermaintained institutional networks are frequently at risk of being hacked, and the proliferation of brand-new platforms and file formats have made the task of storing and preserving 3D archives yet more daunting. The digital community is currently facing a major challenge that may be addressed by fostering a deep understanding of the issue redesigning the digital infrastructure in a way that encompasses the whole lifecycle of projects, and exploring alternative funding options that grant longer the life and greater impact to valuable research.
The Special Track “Online Legacies and Cultural Heritage” aims to bring to the fore a robust and holistic approach to the maintenance of research outputs urgently, in order to pave the way to a more sustainable future for our digital data and 3D collections. We firmly believe that “the implementation of metadata catalogue to store or to point to legacy datasets – and associated contextual documentation – expands substantially the potential for data and resources to be discovered, re-used and critiqued” (Ciula 2020, KDL project).
We welcome contributions tackling the overarching theme of preservation and sustainability of 3D data in three major CH realms:
- Archaeological survey and excavation data
- Museum collections and exhibitions
- Knowledge transfer in higher education
Layered pasts: interpretation, use and re-use of 3D datasets
The democratization of digital technology and the accessibility to material via digital repositories and storytelling are changing the way researchers are able to look at the past. Can digital content be reused meaningfully so as to produce new interpretations? To what extent such digital content is reusable and what is its added value for research in fields such as archaeology, history, heritage, and historiography? To what extent are virtual repositories used and accessed, be they locally stored in either a research project (excavation, survey etc.) or a museum setting, or centrally organised as in the case of aggregating platforms such as ADS, DANS and Europeana? Are data successfully re-used, and can new analyses and interpretations be derived from them? We welcome specialists to submit contributions revolving around the topic of web-based approaches to data reuse, interpretation and storytelling, with the ultimate goal of providing a platform for discussion about best practices in the myriad of methods and techniques at our disposal.
3D digital museum objects: from immobile collections to co-created knowledge hubs
As collections extend into digital form – books, images and paper archives migrate into databases and relationships are reconfigured as digital social networks – the stakes are high. One might question the actual value of traditional, physical collections, most of which are imprisoned in expensive, unwieldy storage units inaccessible to the public and entangled in often contested colonial histories? How do we approach and overcome the risks of dissipated circulation, expensive infrastructures, technological obsolescence, increasing dependency on technical expertise, and the capacity to engage and meet the demands of a highly digitally literate audience?
These questions about infrastructure, accessibility and skillfulness, mask even more fundamental issues about the ways in which digital objects produce knowledge and meaning both in and of the world. Web-based 3D collections, non-human agents enabling source communities to curate their own virtual exhibitions, and 3D-printing technologies allow us to recreate objects destroyed by war and terrorism. These projects seem to highlight how digital media will shape the future form of collections, and indeed the role of museums as exclusive holders of knowledge about the past. More broadly, our cultural, physical world is increasingly enmeshed with a new kind of material reality, i.e. “internet of things” and big data. The digital has become a core medium for an inclusive co-creation through cultural expression on virtual platforms and social media. There is an increasing need to identify and create a deeper understanding of what kind of new knowledge is (co-)produced through these digital platforms and, perhaps more importantly, to determine how different this knowledge really is from the world that existed before. What methods are already available to quantify, assess and analyse such fundamental shifts? In this section we invite researchers and heritage specialists to present the digital solutions they are currently developing and applying in order to assess how the knowledge transferred through these technologies is experienced and perceived by users, as well as gain a better understanding of the processes triggering the co-creation of knowledge.
3D web technology, knowledge transfer and pedagogy
Strictly connected to co-created knowledge within museums settings is the theme of knowledge production and transfer within academic realms that are increasingly implementing open-access digital 3D reference collections, virtual tours and storytelling. Recent projects show a combination of digital pedagogical approaches in traditional museum contexts, where material collections normally kept behind glass can be either remotely or in real-time studied by university students and lay audiences without touching the actual object (Jeffra et al. 2020). How do such digital collections impact the digitally literate generation, how are learning processes affected by these technologies, and how does information and digital analytical practice become internalized? What kind of 3D web technology is currently available to interactively track and assess such processes of knowledge transfer and creation? How do students perceive this new kind of materiality of heritage artefacts, and how does this fundamentally differ from traditional academic practice?
Loes Opgenhaffen (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Martina Revello Lami (Leiden University, Netherlands)
Nicolò Dell’Unto (Lund University, Sweden)
The submissions for the Special Track “Online Legacies and Cultural Heritage” has to follow the rules for the regular conference submissions as technical papers, interactive posters, tutorials or industrial showcases.
All accepted Web3D 2021 papers and posters will be included in the ACM Digital Library. Moreover, for the Special Track “Online Legacies and Cultural Heritage”, extended versions of the best papers will be published in the indexed international Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage (JOCCH).