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A virtual diorama: Methodologising the digital artefact in cultural heritage research

Authors Gunnar Almevik
Jonathan Westin
Published in Current Discourses and Global Challenges, 7-8 November 2019, Critical Heritage Studies, University of Gothenburg
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Literature, History of Ideas, and Religion
Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords Digital reconstruction, Virtual reality
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Interaction Technologies, Media and Communications


During a restoration of the Romanesque church in Hemse in 1896, the remains of a stave church were found as reused floor tiles. The discovery was important at the time, providing new information to a prestigious research field with few sources of knowledge. Today the church’s stave members are esoteric museum artefacts, “re-membered” in various forms of production of history. This poster sets out from an in-deep re-examination and virtual reconstruction of the remains from this stave church. The digital reconstruction functions as a virtual diorama to contextualize the diffused and decontextualized remains and contemporaneous religious artefacts. The aim is methodological, to explore the uses of the digital artefact in the research process. The reconstruction is less of a static representation of our knowledge than a historical laboratory through which archive material can be activated and hypotheses can be tested. We seek to methodologise the virtual diorama, using the technology for testing hypothesis and observe the effects when enacting the environment. The presented research is ongoing and we invite for discussion. How can we, through the digital artefact, elicit the sensuous aspects of a virtual place, and at the same time communicate the rigour of research and display the ambiguities of the reconstruction? How can we in an intelligible way map and reference the archive materials without interfering with the presence effect of the diorama? What are the challenges to present an interactive virtual reality file as a self-standing research output? How can we develop the digital artefact to better engage both researchers and the public in a dialogue on the premises of cultural heritage research?

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