Panorama of the Sanctuary at First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine

First Parish Church in Brunswick, Maine is a new addition to my Sacred Spaces of New England project. Founded in 1717, First Parish Church’s current structure, completed in 1846 and designed by architect Richard Upjohn, is a radical departure from the traditional congregational church design that preceded it. The Gothic Revival design sparked a major shift from “puritan simplicity” that would spread across the country.

If you would like to learn more about the church, please visit the First Parish Church’s entry on the Sacred Spaces of New England website.

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:

Originally posted on September 3, 2011

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.