Digital Techniques for Public Archaeology

The project might become more collaborative by inviting members of the public to do research on their own, and send us relevant information (that we then digitize and add to our database/website). I’m thinking newspaper articles and photographs of the deceased, journals, deeds or other paper documents that are related to them. The digital newspaper archives are very difficult to read online, and many of the Hispanic names here are so similar that it would be helpful for the families to provide us with specific articles, or if they could find the relevant articles online for us.

We could become more co-creative by perhaps making a “digital ofrenda” with pictures of the deceased and biographies written by the family, with pictures of their family members attached. The idea being that the families create the content and make the connections, we only provide the hosting platform. I like this idea personally, because so many of the graves have pictures of the deceased that aren’t visible anymore, or won’t be visible for long. The families wanted their loved one’s images to be remembered, we should honor and facilitate that desire.

The information that will be the most valuable to the community will be that which makes the occupants of the cemetery come back to life, in a sense. And that information is most likely in the possession of the families. I am sure families would appreciate the chance to tell their own stories and make their own interpretations.

The benefits 3D technology can provide to public archaeology projects are many! 3D technology can help us to accurately recreate real objects as digital models, which can then be shared, manipulated, printed, analyzed and many other things. 3D technology allows for an unlimited level of creativity in making admittedly boring data become relevant and interesting to the public. Not only is 3D tech about making physical models that can be shared and manipulated, but its also about making digital models. The possibilities when working with digital models are practically endless, and the more ubiquitous virtual reality software becomes the more creative we can become about how we use digital models of archaeological artifacts and sites. There are some pitfalls: like unscrupulous individuals making copies of artifacts and trying to pass them off as real; or someone using a digital model of an artifact in a disrespectful manner; or someone using our models to spread misinformation. Or lesser pitfalls exist as well, such as if the proliferation of artifact copies causes the public to value the original artifacts less, or if we make an error in our models that then becomes accepted as truth.

It may be possible to recreate the headstones or graves themselves, especially given the incredible variety in handmade grave markers: pictures alone simply do not do them justice! Additionally, it seems obvious that this cemetery is not static at all, the families are constantly coming in and redecorating, or making new grave markers, or the old grave markers are crumbling away as the families neglect them. We have a duty to preserve the cemetery as it exists now, and the most accurate and participatory method to do that is to recreate the grave markers digitally. Photographs alone are insufficient, I think. Further, this specific cemetery is unique. People in other areas of the world may experience the cemetery in a more immediate and visceral way if we can provide them with a digital representation of the cemetery itself. This makes what we do even more valuable, not only are we documenting and preserving, we are enabling a virtual personal experience with the cemetery for members of the public.

0 thoughts on “Digital Techniques for Public Archaeology

  1. I believe, as of right now, that this is mt favorite post. It is well thought out and effective. It is similar to the class discuss we had where we would gather as much real information of the deceased family members to help us better understand the information that stands before us. That is such an interesting perspective because now we will not only see, and maybe read, a little bit about what happened to the individual, but we will also be able to have a story of that individual. Much of this I find to be effective because of two reasons. One reason is that we will be incorporating the public, as we planned to do, and the word could spread out further. The other reason is that the family is allowed the opportunity to present their relative the way they choose to do so. Though, my own disagreement would be in recreating the grave markers. Each grave marker tells its own story. We are provided more information in seeing its condition. I understand the perspective of wanting to preserve the information, but then there will be a sense of altercations in recreating the headstones. Perhaps the best we can offer is what is standing right in front of us and do our best to keep the information alive. Nonetheless, wonderful ideas were shared through this post.

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