Studying heritage artefacts is, in the digital age, impacted by our growing capacity to produce observations, and to cross-examine large datasets. But will this move towards “more” (data) necessarily go along with a move towards “better” practices, and “more” understanding of the items under scrutiny? In heritage sciences, where what is at stake is not defining general rules but analysing and cross-examining individual stories, will this move really turn out to be an opportunity for academics and cultural actors?
As an answer, the project first introduces a series of insight-gaining, reproducible methods, aimed at renewing the way individual heritage items, covering scales that range from archaeological fragments to edifices, can be observed, depicted, and analysed (sound, space and ontology aspects). The core idea is that a multidimensional, multi-criteria characterisation of items can lead to fruitful fine-grain examinations of how patterns and exceptions are met in each line of characterisation, and across lines of characterisation. In that sense the project also pinpoints at the necessity for heritage scientists to renew the way they can read and make sense of collections as such.
The project therefore proposes to investigate the potential benefits of visualisation and sonification strategies in the handling of multidimensional datasets, and to assess their respective applicability setups and ranges of performance with regards to the specificity of heritage information. But beyond that, the initiative aims at helping actors to better formalise and memorise their ways of doing, including the potentially subjective inferences (often poorly verbalised, not to say modelled) made all along the processing of the data. This definitely is a significant challenge at a moment when technologies, short-term research, and the general move towards more and more digital practices tend to impact in a vital (but often unsaid) way our research methodologies.
The project’s strategy is to open (and hopefully clarify) the debate on a recurring issue in heritage science: the imperative of formalising and memorising the various steps that lead from “premises” (sources, analogies, when not an expert’s intuition) to an assertive 3D virtual reconstruction – an end line product that remains today most often un-associated with interpretation processes. In that sense the project is a twofold one: real-case exemplification of methods, and illustrative of good practices in terms of reproducibility, of traceability. At the end of the day, the project’s ambition is to act as an eye-opener on characterisation, sensemaking and reproducibility challenges in heritage sciences, in a real-case approach that although naturally non exhaustive encompasses scales and scientific disciplines.
MAP (UMR CNRS/MCC 3495), <br> UMR 7324 CITERES-LAT <br> LIFAT– Université de Tours<br> PRISM – CNRS/AMU