At-Risk Cultural Heritage and the Digital Humanities
Host Campus: UC San Diego
Lead Principal Investigator: Thomas Levy, Ph.D.
Collaborating Campuses: Berkeley, Los Angeles, Merced
Award Amount: $1.07 million over 2 years
Technical Abstract: Recent events have dramatically highlighted the vulnerability of the world’s material cultural heritage. This project catalyzes a collaborative research effort by four University of California campuses to use cyber-archaeology and digital humanities to document and safeguard virtually some of the most at-risk heritage objects and places. Faculty and students are conducting path-breaking archaeological research at locations in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Greece and Cyprus covering over 10,000 years of cultural materials, architecture and landscapes. Site and artifact identification, cataloging, and digital preservation of complex data and other content derived from satellite imagery, drones, sensors, 3D data capture, and other techniques are research challenges. Walk-in life-sized 3D kiosks and personal devices for viewing digital objects and sharing heritage data will be developed for each collaborating campus and networked for telepresence collaboration in 3D. The platform will enable: 1) correlative studies of regional climate/environmental data and demographic, cultural, and technological changes; 2) studies of how human conflicts, climate change, pollution, natural disasters, and looting affect archaeological sites and forecasting of critically-endangered places; and 3) 3D models using new kinds of geospatial data. Public engagement in the UC research mission will be promoted via online crowd-sourcing to monitor at-risk sites, and open-source software will enable public access to 3D digital heritage visualization. The project will position UC as a national leader in global cultural heritage preservation efforts, and California as an active participant in ‘archaeo-diplomacy’ by offering solutions for virtual documentation of at-risk cultural resources.