Friday, April 29, 2011

Virtual History

The current view of museums in the general public is that their static displays of ancient artifacts and sepia-toned photographs do not convey a deeper connection or understanding of the culture being displayed. However, there are museums that have been exploring the different possibilities of interactive interfaces.

Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA
The Exploratorium in San Francisco is a good example of a musuem employing interactive elements to engage children in science, art, and history. One can study the physics of skateboarding with 3-dimensional life-size diagrams of ramps and trajectories, check a person's weight on other planets, or make a personal petroglyph in stone like the ancient Chacoans. Still, exhibits pertaining to the cultural sphere fall short of transporting people directly into the midst of the time and place being represented.

Gallery of California History, Oakland Museum
  The Oakland Museum's Gallery of California History still contains conventional displays of artifacts from the period and location to represent an entire culture. It is very difficult to gain a sense of continuity or vitality in the lives of the people being represented. It's as if that culture is extinct now. It's dead, the people don't exist anymore, and it won't come back any time soon. That is exactly the kind of sentiment that it is important to avoid when representing one's own culture.

One solution may have unveiled itself in the increasingly sophisticated technological worlds of virtual reality and social networking. Maurizio Forte, professor of Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts at the University of California, Merced has been working to create virtual replicas of cities and landscapes that no longer exist.

Forte's virtual cities now exist in museums including the Museo Nazionale delle Terme di Diocleziano in Rome, where he recreated an Italian villa in Flaminia. A more in-depth description of his work and future plans is given here: UC Merced Virtual Archaeologist Saves Past for Future. The basic idea behind the virtual musuem that makes it so much more interactive, is the ability to actually enter the landscape and interact with the people and objects of the time through the use of an avatar. Better yet, through the use of typical VR utilities that fool the senses, (including bulky goggles, audio, and even scents) one can take a walk through a place and see it exactly as it was centuries ago.
 With new software that allows programmers to mold pictures to 3-dimensional wire frames, I could foresee using pictures of actual people as avatar docents in their authentic environment!!!

What does this mean for the Wahoga Village Project?! It doesn't mean anything yet, but the possibilities are always fun to dream about.

No comments:

Post a Comment