International Conference on Digital Encounters with Cultural Heritage & Workshop on Research and Education in Urban History in the Age of Digital Libraries

audienceThe international conference under the patronage of CIPA was organized by Kristina Friedrichs (Würzburg), Sander Münster (Dresden), Florian Niebling (Würzburg), and Agnieszka Seidel-Grzesinska (Wroclav).

On March 30th and 31st, the joint event of the Technical University Dresden, the University of Würzburg, and the University of Wroclav took place in Dresden. Scholars from 14 nations presented their work on urban history and digital methods as part of the “Conference on Digital Encounters with Cultural Heritage” and the associated workshop on “Research and Education in Urban History in the Age of Digital Libraries”.

The president of CIPA, Prof. Andreas Georgopoulos, introduced CIPA’s perspective on cultural heritage and its digital development in the first keynote speech.

The first session on Art, History and Culture  showed how strongly digital methods are integrated into urban space exploration. The contributions also illustrated the pleasingly wide range of possible research questions. For example, Tabea Lurk, Markus Schwander and Daniel Brefin reported on the project “Grenzgang”, which illumined the perception and mediation of (urban) space from the perspective of artistic walking tours. Claartje Rasterhoff showed how cultural events, music, theaters, exhibitions and others can be examined by computer-assisted analysis regarding their influence on the city, presenting Amsterdam as an example. Agnieszka Seidel-Grzesinska and Małgorzata Wyrzykowska retraced the historical development of monuments with special consideration of Silesia and informed the audience about the current integration of the material into their digital repositories. Daniel Isemann and Tuan Anhan dealt with the artists of the Dutch genre painting in the 17th century and their creative exchange between individual urban centers in the manner of a spatial network analysis.

audience2In the session on Image Databases, the different requirements for such repositories as well as user-centered technological approaches were discussed; the contributions aimed at both scientists as well as at the interested lay public. Beate Löffler presented the project “ArchiMediaL” that is working on the evaluation of urban photographs and postcards from image repositories and databases. Her talk focused on crowdsourcing and automatic image recognition, which is of outstanding relevance due to the non-European research field Japan. The talk of Christina Kamposiori dealt with the use of digital image archives by art and architectural historians, with a particular focus on an analysis of their search behavior. She presented the results of a qualitative survey that also revealed the main deficits of the existing digital platforms. Joanna Zętar spoke about the work of the cultural institution Brama Godska – Teatr NN that is based in Lublin. In addition to the image repository located there, the focus is on the use of computer-aided models, augmented reality applications and narrative media in the public mediation of city history.

A session devoted to VR and AR Technologies showed the advantages of computer-aided models and the use of different realities, but also addressed the deficits of these approaches. For example, Andrea Giordano and Paolo Borin addressed the spatial and temporal components of urban models based on their specific example Venice. In addition to the methodological challenges, they discussed technological approaches to computer-aided visualization using a four-dimensional model. Radek Fiala introduced the case study of the Peregrinus Silva Bohemia Project, which focuses on the transfer of architecture and cultural space through interactive maps, 3D models and augmented reality, with a special focus on the didactics that are changing due to the technical solutions used. Regarding the technical aspects of virtual realities, Bruno Fanini and Emanuel Demetrescu formulated specific guidelines that can lead to an increased immersive experience when creating VR presentations.

hoppeThe first day of the conference concluded with a keynote by Stephan Hoppe in which he focused on digital methods for the analysis of architecture. He also strongly advocated for the use of open formats such as Wikidata.

On the second day of the conference, Leonid Borodkin gave another keynote that discussed the virtual reconstructions of Moscow monasteries and showed how, in addition to the pure digitization of data, they could also be used as a tool for scientific evaluation during the reconstruction.

A longer session devoted to Digital Reconstructions showed on the one hand the chances of research and mediation through this medium, but on the other hand also formulated the clear desideratum of uniform guidelines and standards. Mieke Pfarr-Harfst talked about the current challenges in working with digital 3D reconstructions, especially for urban structures, and how these can be overcome by the development of binding standards that go beyond the current practice. Hendrik Herold and Robert Hecht reported on the reconstruction of urban space on the basis of historical maps, with a focus on settlement structures and pattern recognition. In addition, the visualization of these special results was discussed. The contribution of Emanuel Demetrescu introduced a tool for documenting the sources that were used for a virtual reconstruction, mainly in the field of no longer existing originals, for example in the context of archaeological excavations. Piotr Kuroczynski spoke about virtual research environments, which are intended to support the work with digital 3D reconstructions. The lack of binding documentation standards, leading to the loss of information, was also criticized.

The session on Virtual Exhibitions showed that also in the mediation of urban space a variety of digital media can be used, reaching from AR and VR applications to models and image repositories further to archives. Marinos Ioannidis presented the EU Manifesto 2025 for digital cultural heritage, with an emphasis on the ViMM project, the “Virtual Multimodal Museum”, as well as the partner institutions involved in it, which are expected to lead to a stronger consolidation in this area. Elettra La Duca presented her approach towards the Spanish Alhambra, whereby the existing sources will be made accessible through AR technology. The application will not only work for the educational use in a museum, but also serve for scientific purposes. Fabrizio Ivan Apollonio reported on the creation of digital, three-dimensional archives, which can provide technical support for the study of architectural and cultural heritage. The last talk was given by Chiara Ronchini, who presented a program for the creation of teaching methods in the field of cultural heritage with an emphasis on digital resources.

tourAs organizers of the conference, the research group UrbanHistory4D presented its research fields as well as methodological approaches towards digitally supported research and education in urban history. Three topics played a significant role in the kick-off workshop: A historical and architectural complex dealt with the exploration and mediation of urban history, using the example of Dresden’s development in the 20th century. A second, methodological complex concentrated on the research requirements for digital repositories and the derived technical support options. A third complex dedicated to information technology examined needs-based information modelling and its technical applications, based on a case study of the Deutsche Fotothek (German Photographic Collection).