We take our role as digital heritage creators very seriously. The sites we investigate are places of cultural significance, protected and preserved for future generations. A guide we, and colleagues, follow in globally in this regard is the ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, or simply the Burra Charter. This was first adopted in 1979 and is the internationally accepted standard for heritage conservation in Australia. It was based on the Venice Charter (1964), the international standard for heritage management.
The Burra Charter outlines three levels of repair for heritage structures:
- Understand significance: knowledge of site and assessment of its cultural significance
- Develop a policy: identify factors and issues, develop policy, and prepare a management plan
- Manage in accordance with policy: implement the plan and monitor/review the results
Particularly relevant for us is the section on restoration and reconstruction of heritage sites. But interestingly, the word ‘digital’ is not mentioned once in the Charter, even in the latest 2013 version. This isn’t to say it has been neglected. In fact, the latest volume of Historic Environment (ICOMOS’ in-house publication) was entirely dedicated to digital heritage.
The role of emerging technologies, like VR, in heritage restoration is crucial for the 21st century. Digital reconstruction, in this regard, needs to consider not only creation, but maintenance. Just like artefacts in a store room, digital items will need to be curated and maintained. It is an often forgotten, yet crucial step in the process. Some data has already become inaccessible due to compatibility issues. Before long, this information becomes lost in the digital ether.
Emerging technologies will play an increasingly larger part in heritage conservation, as it provides a less destructive alternative for reconstruction. Some sites, for example the temple at Jerusalem, may never be fully reconstructed due to their complex heritage history.
At Lithodomos VR, we strive to implement a digital heritage management plan in accordance with national and international policy, leading the way for a sustainable digital future.