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Digital Lifetimes: Data Worth Saving

Data worth saving: layers of images from deep underwater archaeology sites enable later virtual exploration. ©VENUS archive

If you ever get a sinking feeling that all your photos and correspondence stored digitally may one day be lost in a computer crash or due to some future software incompatibility, then you might empathize with the folks who spend their professional lives thinking about ways to ensure digital forms of cultural heritage don’t disappear into the ether.

In fact, yesterday and today, people concerned with preserving digital 3D visualizations of ancient sites and other digital cultural heritage objects are meeting in London for a conference entitled Visualizations and Simulations, organized under the POCOS (Preservation of Complex Objects Symposia) banner.

I’m not there, but many of the talks piqued my interest, such as the one about the Villa of Oplontis project. This is a 3D, navigable model of a gigantic Roman era villa near Pompei. The villa was so enormous that the archeologists trying to excavate the site 20 years ago never managed to find its limits. The villa had at least 99 rooms and a 60-meter swimming pool. For comparison: An Olympic-sized swimming pool is 50 meters long. Although excavators never did find the villa’s perimeter, they did acquire an immense amount of architectural information about the place. This is being used to develop what sounds like a cool 3D digital model of the villa.
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American Institute of Conservation Meeting + Another AIC Conference

AIC annual meeting logo. Credit: www.conservation-us.org

Wish I could have joined the crowds of conservators who spent this week in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Conservation.

I’ve been sating myself here in Berlin by checking out the AIC blog launched at the meeting called Conservators Converse, as well as video posts and tweets from attendees.

This year the conference aims “to examine how ethics, logic, and perception guide conservation decisions” given that “assumptions long held in the practice of conservation are being challenged by the modern world.”

That’s a somewhat wordy way of saying that conference sessions will broach such issues as:

-How to conserve new media/digital art?

-What’s to be done about the trend of outsourcing conservation services?

-What’s the balance between conserving a piece of cultural heritage and conserving our outside environment… That is, is it OK to use a lot of energy to protect an artifact–for example, through constant air conditioning or maintaining low-humidity conditions–if that means our outside environment suffers? More on this in a future post.

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