I spent last week as one cog in the team that helped put together the inaugural Virtual Cultural Heritage Ireland workshop, which was held on 27-28 February on the grounds of Trinity College Dublin. The two days were a whirlwind introduction to the world of conference hosting and despite having to survive on the odd surreptitious sandwich, copious quantities of tea and very little sleep, we all got through it and can now look back with a fair amount of satisfaction.
The idea for the event came out of discussions between Hugh Denard of Trinity College Dublin and Maurice Murphy of the Dublin Institute of Technology. They spotted a gap in the conference market where discussions about projects, research and funding opportunities concerning Irish Virtual Cultural Heritage initiatives could take place. When approached in the autumn and asked if I would like to take a role in the project, I’ll admit that I was initially somewhat sceptical as to the demand for what appeared at first sight to be quite a niche theme for such a small country as Ireland. During our early committee meetings I recall many of us arguing that we would be much better served by broadening the scope to include more general digital humanities topics. I was particularly keen to make the conference attractive to the many postgraduate researchers working on digital editions, not least my colleagues in the Digital Arts and Humanities programme (dahphd.ie).
As it happened, I need not have worried and the significant interest and subsequent turnout for the event proved that the formation of an organisation devoted to the needs of individuals, state groups and private companies working on projects involving the capture and digitization of real-world cultural heritage environments and the visualisation of these environments in new and interesting ways using 3D visualisation technologies was entirely possible and indeed favourable.
Hugh and Maurice’s idea was fairly simple – bring together groups from the academic, public and private sectors working in VCH in Ireland and then allow them to network and form professional partnerships that would serve to drive the national sector forward at a macro level and provide employment for emerging talent coming out of the state’s 3rd level sector.
Personally speaking, I believe that this vision largely came to pass over the two days of VCHI2014. In between racing about like a madman and generally trying to keep the show on the road with Hugh and Maurice, and my fellow PhD committee colleagues, Karolina Badzmierowska and Conor Dore, I was able to make some very positive contacts that I am hoping in the coming months will help to further the development of a number of the VCH projects that I am working on. And I would hope that my involvement in these partner projects will serve to further their goals as well.
The two-day event was split between Day 1, which was held in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute and Day 2, whose sessions (including practical workshops involving virtual world creation and 3D artefact scanning and printing) were shared between the Emmet Theatre in the Arts building at Trinity and the TCD Classics Department. Day 1 focussed on the presentation of established academics working in VCH in Ireland as well as the major related state sector groups (Discovery, OPW, English Heritage) and a representation of VCH-focussed Irish SMEs (RealSim, Noho, MissionV, Survey Instrument Services and Dedicated CAD Services). Day 2 was more aligned towards academic research in the area, being particularly directed at the showcasing of up-and-coming postgraduate research talent.
It was fascinating to see such a broad range of topics on display across both days. We were treated to talks from the archaeological, architectural, civil engineering, museum and historical communities, and while the specific subject matters often varied greatly between one talk and the next, there was always the unifying theme of real and virtual environments to be felt.
It was always the intention of the VCHIreland committee that VCHI2014 should be the beginning of some form of organisation that would serve as a useful tool for the sector going forward. With that in mind, the next step for the committee and for all those that presented papers at VCHI2014 is to prepare these works for publication on the project website. We would also hope to promote this website as a locus for discussion within the field and for consideration about how VCHIreland might best be developed. Most of the attendees agreed that VCHIreland should become an annual event. Others suggested that we develop a forum on the website for discussion of VCH matters. One initial discussion point that immediately comes to my mind is whether the VCHI2014 papers should be made available as a print publication as well. Another point that could be developed is whether the establishment of a more permanent VCHIreland journal should be investigated.
All of us on the current committee look forward to seeing how these promising ideas pan out. We are keen to maintain the momentum started by VCHI2014 so as to maximise the potential positive outcomes for VCH practice in Ireland in the years to come.
edit – add Mission V to list of SMEs
(JT, 04/03/2014 17:13:34)
Ahhhh of course. Where is my head today?
(Frank, 04/03/2014 17:22:33)