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AFF622 Blog Post 3

Unfortunately having been absent from the group discussion on these papers and the direction the discussion took I will make a note of my own observations on both studies (Huggett 2012 and Costapoulos 2016).

A large portion of our teaching in the MADAH at University College Cork was focused on the need to explore what Digital Humanities (DH) was and what it encompassed and if Huggett’s paper is anything to go by, DH had made little to no progress in 2012 conceptually. I would hope that we have moved on considerably from the state of affairs he had communicated particularly in terms of how we structure the sub-disciplines within DH.

Something Huggett discusses that I myself had not considered was how DH was inextricably linked to the idea of the text and how many academics in defining DH practice come back to this as a common denominator. Huggett felt that this placed archaeological practice at a distance from the principles and applications of DH as archaeological work predates ‘traditional’ concepts of communicative text formats. I find this concept (though not expressly one conceived of by Huggett himself) fundamentally flawed and somewhat reductive. It appears also that while Huggett tries to emancipate the archaeological record he falls within the same narrow view. While DH has in many ways focused on the ‘text’ this to me highlights a deficit in people’s conceptual application of the principles of DH rather than the limitations of the field itself. In this way I don’t believe archaeology is truly at a disconnect from the field but rather people aren’t thinking laterally about how best to engage with it.

Of the two pieces that we reviewed for discussion, I was far more interested in Costapoulos piece as it moves beyond the reductive discourse around the defining of a practice that Huggett explores. His work to me seems more reflective of current attitudes to Digital Archaeology as a discipline (or non discipline as he would rather it) as he highlights that rather than being at the precipice of a digital archaeological movement we have in fact been inhabiting the practice for quite some time and that now we are to move beyond reductive discourse and start doing archaeology digitally. This is again a rather semantic  argument however I do see the relevance of it. Applying a title of ‘Digital Archaeology’ to a practice within archaeology may serve as a divisive measure rather than a unifying one. In this way I feel Costapoulos is leaning more towards the ideas put forward by Daly and Evans (2006, 3) who argued that we should be engaging with DA, not as a specialism ‘but an approach – a way of better utilizing computers based on an understanding of the strengths and limits of computers and information technology as a whole”.

In many ways archaeological practices and indeed digital archaeology could benefit from the discourse that surrounds DH in as much as it can learn from its mistakes. Archaeology while having a long history of implementing information technology and tools such as GIS to facilitate site and report synthesis needs to think about the digital turn in a way that helps to broaden the research impact of the field.So instead of spending time arguing about what DH and DA really are, we could spend more time looking at how current research frameworks and methodologies in both fields may be implemented in a way that is mutually beneficial or that will help both disciplines engage in more progressive forms of research.

Readings

Huggett, J (2012) Core or periphery? Digital Humanities from an archaeological perspective. Historical Social Research (37), 3, pp. 86-105. http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/37833/ssoar-hsr-2012-3-huggett-Core_or_periphery_Digital_Humanities.pdf?sequence=1

Costapoulos, A. (2016) Digital Archeology Is Here (and Has Been for a While). Frontiers in Digital Humanities. http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fdigh.2016.00004/full#B14

 

Votive Offering 3, Oughtmama, Co. Clare

One of three hand carved stones found at St Colmán’s Well (Tobar Cholmáin). The well is part of the monastic landscape of Oughtmama, a small monastic site located in a valley above Turlough Hill in the Burren, Co. Clare. The stones were presented to the museum by Rev. O’Doherty, Lord Bishop of Galway.

Original data capture was undertaken at the National Science Museum, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth in November 2016, under the direction of Dr. Konstantinos Papadopoulos. Access was granted by museum curator Dr. Niall McKeith.

This model was created using photogrammetry as part of AFF622 Virtual Heritage module at An Foras Feasa Maynooth.

Democratising Datasets: Digital Replication and Aura

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Despite the process of digitisation and replication providing non-invasive alternative to artefact assessment and by proxy democratizing the datasets, the digitisation process has not been uniformly adopted as an alternative to traditionalist models of curation and representation. This reluctance seems to be caught up with the issue of authenticity and the lack of ‘aura’ surrounding the digital.

The replication process, that is to say, creating a copy of an object/feature that is indistinguishable from the original, is by no means a new practice in the field of heritage. Before digital applications facilitated the proliferation of replicas of archaeological monuments and artefacts, we relied instead on plaster casts to create ‘reproductions, facsimiles, or occasionally models,’ for museums and art galleries.  This ‘substantial enterprise’ as Foster and Curtis describe it (2016, 123) was established for ‘observation, education, handling, documentation, presentation and art training’. By the 19th century however, changing attitudes to authenticity largely meant that the use and display of replicas fell out of favour leading to facsimiles occupying a type of ‘curatorial purgatory’ (ibid. 126). An assessment of international conservation charters by Bell (1997) further augmented this disdain for the replica process within curatorial spaces by asserting the process was carried out with the intention of deceiving the observer. This loaded assertion is intrinsically linked with the idea of aura and authenticity where artefacts are concerned, and the narrative they create in museums.

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Plaster cast of ‘Lacoon and His sons’ taken from the Roman copy in the Vatican. Currently on display in the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork.

The function of the exhibition is to communicate a sense of place and to illicit a response from the viewer, leading from the premise that the individual wants to be engaged by the ‘real’ object to fully connect with it. Many specialists in the field therefore feel that the intangible object lacks agency and an overall aura; that a digital object or a replica of any description cannot communicate a given narrative or establish a connection. However, this idea of aura to me is an entirely subjective process and open to considerable debate. Hazan (2001) emphasizes for example how “sometimes precious, sometimes mundane objects are modified in the exhibition context where they go through a process of museumification, extracted from different locations and placed on a spotlighted pedestal, or isolated in a glass cage”. Any ex situ object (whether art historical or archaeological) within a museum space is therefore re-conceptualised and re-contextualised to conform to a given (and not always honest) narrative.

The subjective nature of ‘auratic quality’ as Jeffrey describes it (2015, 144/145 etc.)  can be best explained using The Stone Corridor in University College Cork. This is a corridor that contains a number of ex situ Ogham Stones from counties Cork and Waterford collected from 1861-1945.  When I conceive of an ogham stone, I see it demarcating the boundaries of interlocking field systems. When I encounter this collection, I do not experience the auratic quality or authenticity linked to the object as their narrative has been deconstructed and reorganized in a clinical space. Ogham stones are monuments that were built into an ever expanding historical landscape. To remove them from that landscape is to undermine the agency of the object. This is a subjective experience and doesn’t preclude the public’s enjoyment or connection with the object independently of my own.

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The Stone Corridor, Ken Williams 2010

Fundamentally, all museums represent a curatorial purgatory, filled with objects that have lost their narrative and their true ‘aura’. That is why I believe it is important to move beyond that concept when considering the potential that digital tools have in heritage institutions and curated spaces. In the 1930’s Benjamin saw this separation of object and aura as a liberating phenomenon that ‘emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual’. The democratization that digitisation affords to me far outweighs the conceptualization of aura, which keeps museum, archival and archaeological practices authoritarian and stagnant.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Foster, S.M. & Curtis, N.W.G. (2016) The Thing About Replicas – Why Historic Replicas Matter. European Journal of Archaeology 19 (1) 122-148.

Hazan, S. (2001) The Virtual Aura – Is there Space for Enchantment in a Technological World? Museums and the Web Conference 2001.

http://www.museumsandtheweb.com/mw2001/papers/hazan/hazan.html#ixzz4OIV0Dalm    <Accessed 20.10.16>

Jeffrey, S. (2015) Challenging Heritage Visualisation: Beauty, Aura and Democratisation. Open Archaeology (1) 144-152.

Kibuspuu, L. (NA) Peopling the Heritage: To what extent is democratization of built heritage management possible and desirable? http://www.ainova.sk/files/file/BHCD%20Peopling%20the%20Heritage.pdf <Accessed 21-10-16>

The Stone Corridor Photographic Credit : Ken Williams 2010

Documentation interpretation and communication of Digital Archaeological Heritage — Doug’s Archaeology

With movies I always thought 3D was a bit of a con. Pay extra money to experience those cheap 3D effects you would see at the state fair… meh. 3D in archaeology- oh, I am not sure we have scratched the surface of what it can do for both recording or disseminating. Here is the […]

via Documentation interpretation and communication of Digital Archaeological Heritage — Doug’s Archaeology

Pictish Carved Stone Discovered in Orkney Cliff — Archaeology Orkney

It has to be said that Orkney is an amazing place to study archaeology. It seems that every month, news of a new discovery lands on my desk. Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) with support from Historic Environment Scotland complete a delicate rescue mission to recover a rare Pictish Carved Stone from an eroding […]

via Pictish Carved Stone Discovered in Orkney Cliff — Archaeology Orkney

Landscape, Environment & Heritage in Irish Studies

We had a great time presenting at this workshop last month! Always a pleasure to have the opportunity to showcase our ongoing research.

Deep Maps : West Cork Coastal Cultures

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The Deep Maps team had the pleasure of presenting on our research at the Landscapes, Environment & Heritage in Irish Studies workshop, held at University College Cork. This workshop was funded by the Irish Research Council and coordinated by Dr. Anna Pilz of the Department of English.

The workshop launched with a screening of ‘Tim Robinson: Connemara‘ followed by a question and answer session with its director Pat Collins. The workshop brought together a range of specialists and academics from diverse fields concerned with landscape, environment and heritage.

 With the idea of deep mapping, we joined our enquiries to those of other interdisciplinary researchers, concerned with investigating human interactions with the environment over time and in particular places. Place is what connects the three main parts of our project: scientific knowledge; historical representation and community perception of dangers to the marine environment. For the purposes of the presentation, we brought together…

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Create Your Own Story Maps, For Free: A Simple Tutorial

A handy tutorial for starting off with ArcGIS online’s Storymap display

GIS and Science

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about story maps lately, and you’ve probably seen some pretty cool examples of what people are doing with them. But have you created one yourself?

If you have an ArcGIS Online Organizational account, you’ve already set.  But you don’t need one of those to build a story map. In fact, you can create story maps for free.

So why not start experimenting with story maps yourself and see what you come up with?

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You can start here by creating a free account:

http://www.esri.com/software/arcgis/arcgisonline/features/free-personal-account

01 free public account

Click on “Sign Up for a Free Account”, which brings up this screen:

02 free public account

Click on “Create a Public Account”, which steps you through the account creation process.

Once you’ve created the account, click on “Map” in the top navigation.  Select which basemap you would like to use, but don’t worry about it too much at this point—you can always change…

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Artec Eva 3D Scanner

After somewhat of a poor start to my week I got the news that the Digital Arts and Humanities were to welcome the arrival of their new Artec Eva 3D Scanner. And like a newborn screaming into this world, it has wormed its way into the recesses of my heart.

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We were treated to an in depth workshop on the various processing methods available with the accompanying software as well as some helpful tips and tricks for scanning difficult surfaces such as hair. I already have a list of objects I want to test it on (not least the rams head adorning my bedroom wall) however will possibly have to refrain to more academic mediums. I was happy to see however that it is quite competent for scanning wooden objects in considerable detail which is good news for my Pallasboy Project collaboration. I had expected a degree of uncertainty and difficulty given previous assessments on its suitability however this has me quite relieved and excited to begin.

I will provide an update on the scanner soon and all its attachments soon.

 

Beaulieu Cadaver Stone

I took a brief break from work to visit the Beaulieu cadaver stone in Drogheda last week and take in the tour of Beaulieu House and Gardens which I had forfeited on my previous visit to focus on the church and graveyard. Unfortunately I was not able to assess the cadaver stone again as the church is now closed off to the public due to a change of leadership within the diocese.

During the tour of the house, our guide had remarked upon the importation of the cadaver monuments from England, owing possibly to the desire of the then landowners to emulate the greater English burial traditions that were exemplified at the time. Once the tour was concluded I took a moment to speak with the guide about the importation of the cadaver stone and the local tradition that suggested it came from the local riverbed. He substantiated the claim made by Roe as to the local tradition that the stone had in fact been retrieved from the silt of the riverbed which had acted in its own right as a form of preservation. He further stated that it had likely fallen into the waters during removal and was left behind. It seems odd that it would be left behind given the relative costs of production and importation however it is possible it was left behind as it could not in fact be found within the waters. Once the cadaver stone was removed it was brought to the later church site at Beaulieu where it still remains in very good condition.

Unfortunately none of the main family members named in the tour of the opening hall passed away within the date range of the cadaver stone either. This isn’t to say it was not for a member of the site however it would certainly require further genealogical assessments and a possible assessments of shipping records to the area to substantiate.

It is unfortunate the church site is currently closed but it meant we took more time in the gardens.

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Kilkenny Cadaver Stones

According to Roe’s (1969) catalogue there are two examples of the cadaver tradition in Co. Kilkenny. The first is located at the site of Threecastles Church and old graveyard, in the civil parish of Odagh. The second cadaver stone is at St. Mary’s Church, Gowran.

Threecastles Co. Kilkenny

A preliminary site visit was undertaken at Threecastles on 23/06/16 however the location of the stone could not be established. It was last recorded ten years ago by Ken Murtagh (Cóilín O’Drisceoil pers comm. 24/06/16) and a call has been put out to establish more details regarding its location and condition. It is likely that the stone is still located within the old graveyard of the site and has either become hidden in the surrounding shrubbery, or overgrown grass or has been turned over to protect its worked surface. A more up-to-date image is not available.

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Gowran, Co. Kilkenny

A preliminary site visit was undertaken on 24/06/16 to establish the current location of the Kealy cadaver tomb. This tomb chest was fully accessible and in relatively good condition. Photographs were taken to produce a 3D model and a number of additional references to records of the tomb from local historians/archaeologists were provided by Gerry O’Keefe.

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An additional site visit will be undertaken at a later date to undertake a more complete survey of the tomb and details of both models will be included in The Modest Man Research Project section.