“The Jazeera Al Hamra Digital Heritage Project: A Model for Digitally Preserving the Heritage of the Arabian Peninsula” Essay Published

Pearl Merchant’s Home, 2009. Photograph by Seth Thompson. Author’s copyright.

Pearl Merchant’s Home, 2009. Photograph by Seth Thompson. Author’s copyright.

My essay entitled, “The Jazeera Al Hamra Digital Heritage Project: A Model for Digitally Preserving the Heritage of the Arabian Peninsula” has recently been published in The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum.

For an overview, here’s the journal article’s abstract:

The digital environment offers an opportunity of establishing a museum model that supports contemporary museum thought in regard to collective memory strategies, inclusivity, and equity of tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Al Jazeera Al Hamra, a former coastal village in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, was abandoned at the time of the formation of the country in the late 1960s and 1970s. It is considered one of the last traditional fishing and pearl diving villages in the nation. As the buildings are now only remnants of a time past, not only does the architecture need to be documented and mapped, but also the stories and traditions of the people who once lived there need to be recorded.

Creating a web-based virtual environment, which documents both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Al Jazeera Al Hamra can provide a cohesive physical and social record for future generations after the buildings and the people who had inhabited the town are gone. Using Al Jazeera Al Hamra, an at risk site, this paper presents a model for digitally preserving and re-presenting tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.

If you would like to order a downloadable version of the essay for $5.00, please visit:
http://ijz.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.177/prod.325

Thompson, Seth. “The Jazeera Al Hamra Digital Heritage Project: A Model for Digitally Preserving the Heritage of the Arabian Peninsula”. The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 8, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.33-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: June 19, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.394MB)).

Digital humanities and the virtual museum

On November 16th, The New York Times published an article by Patricia Cohen entitled, “Digital Keys for Unlocking the Humanities’ Riches,” in which she writes, “Members of a new generation of digitally savvy humanists argue it is time to stop looking for inspiration in the next political or philosophical “ism” and start exploring how technology is changing our understanding of the liberal arts. This latest frontier is about method, they say, using powerful technologies and vast stores of digitized materials that previous humanities scholars did not have.”

The “digital humanities” is not only the new frontier for academics and researchers but also for museum professionals and designers who seek to push the boundaries with digital technologies to create online exhibitions and construct virtual museums.

As museum professionals and researchers grapple with how they may document, collect and disseminate intangible cultural heritage, which the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage defined to include: “ (a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; (b) performing arts; (c) social practices, rituals and festive events; (d) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; (e) traditional craftsmanship,” a reexamination of how heritage and cultural artifacts are cataloged, represented and interpreted within a museum context needs to be carefully considered and a virtual environment may be the most appropriate place to disseminate them.

By using digital technologies to document and create records of a museum’s intangible and tangible cultural heritage assets as well as related contextual information, a museum can create a database system and interface to sift and sort through its digital assets to create meaning and understanding in ways that would have been very difficult to achieve earlier. Nevertheless the following questions need to be considered: 1.) Does a new or revised cataloging system need to be employed? 2.) How can a tagging system be better developed and defined to benefit museum staff, researchers, teachers and lifelong learners?

Originally posted on November 20, 2010

Collaborative institutional efforts makes for beautiful panoramas

 

Snapshot of the Sistine Chapel Panorama

Snapshot of the Sistine Chapel Panorama

 

Villanova University faculty and students from the school’s communication and computer science departments collaborated with the Vatican to make important architectural heritage sites more accessible to the online community.

This virtual reality tour project, which features stunning 360-degree panoramas of the Sistine Chapel, Basilica of St. Peter, Pauline Chapel, Basilica of Saint Paul, Basilica of Saint John Lateran, and Saint Mary Major is part of an internship program that Villanova University established with the Vatican in 2003.

“The artwork present in places of worship aims to immerse the visitor in a sacred reality and the Sistine Chapel is preeminent in this tradition,” said Frank Klassner, an Associate Professor in Villanova’s Computing Sciences Department and a leader on the project. “Our team is grateful to have played a small part in maintaining this tradition using the power of the Internet and modern immersive technology.”

The project, which was completed in 2010, is an excellent example of how a university and cultural institution can work together to create innovative solutions that address the needs and abilities of its partnering organizations.

For more information, read:
http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/media/pressreleases/2010/0806.html

http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/media/pressreleases/2010/0319.html

Originally posted on September 3, 2011

The Adobe Museum of Digital Media fails to embrace its own media potential

 

Adobe Museum of Digital Media

 

On October 6, 2010, two months after its anticipated release, Adobe launched the Adobe Museum of Digital Media, an online exhibition space for art and design. While providing enticing architectural graphics, the site is disappointing because it does not embrace current museum and Web 2.0 thought on developing participatory experiences to create dialogue and engage community. As a result, the Adobe Museum of Digital Media fails to grasp the potential of the Web by using a traditional authoritative exhibition model within a digital environment. Besides decreasing the download time to experience the museum interface and work at hand, my advice to Adobe is to let go of the notion of a physical architecture within the interface design and provide a more visceral experience for viewers to engage in and interact with intangible works of art that are made specifically for the screen.

Read the Adobe Museum of Digital Media press release.

Originally posted on November 18, 2010

Former fishing and pearling community is an excellent candidate for preservation with digital media technologies

 

 

Al Jazeera Al Hamra, a former coastal village in southern Ras Al Khaimah that was abandoned prior to the formation of the United Arab Emirates, is considered one of the last traditional towns in the country. Once an active fishing and pearl diving community primarily inhabited by the the Al Zaabi tribe, Jazeera Al Hamra consists of a hisn (fort), several mosques, a souq and over a 100 houses including a wind tower home—many of which are constructed of coral, shell stone and plaster.

As the buildings continue to decay due to a dire lack of attention, not only does the architecture need to be documented and mapped, but also the stories and traditions of the people who once lived there needs to be recorded. Creating a virtual museum, which documents both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Jazeera Al Hamra enables a record of the past for future generations.