Digital Heritage Interpretation Conference 2023


Event Date:  11th May 2023

12.00pm – 7.00pm

Registration: Eventbrite link

The conference aims to bring together researchers, practitioners, and educators to present and discuss innovations, trends, methods, practical challenges and experiences encountered in areas of Digital Cultural Heritage Interpretation. The one day conference also enables a platform for networking, sharing ideas and collaboration on future digital heritage interpretation projects.

In the growing discipline of digital cultural heritage, debates around digital engagement, maximising opportunities presented by emerging technologies, and developing immersive and interactive experiences for visitors at heritage sites have progressed rapidly in the last 10 years. Primarily helped by much easier access to affordable software and hardware, organisations and individuals are able to create realistic 3D scenes of lost buildings, places and artefacts which can be explored via various engaging methods and platforms, for example augmented and virtual reality.  Restoration, revitalisation and 3D reconstruction of heritage buildings and sites enables community engagement with heritage assets and helps in strengthening local identity. Adding historical or heritage data (HBIM), such as materials/phases of development and the people who were involved, to buildings/heritage sites can maximise interest for visitors and form a valuable record for conservation purposes. By revitalising existing heritage assets, growth in tourism and engagement with heritage in local communities can be achieved, enabling heritage organisations to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

Developing talent, knowledge, and capacity for engagement with immersive, digitally creative industries and cultural heritage interpretation can help to build enriched, interactive visitor experiences. The methods and processes involved, challenges encountered and solved, software and hardware used are fundamental to understanding how to develop Digital Cultural Heritage Interpretation further.  Please join us and encourage ongoing debate and discussion in exploring digital possibilities for the design of heritage interpretation and reconstructions of times past.


12.00pm – 12.45pm
Welcome, Registration & Refreshments, West Downs Quarter Reception Foyer

12.45pm – 1.30pm
Opening Keynote: In the Footsteps of Alfred the Great: Reflecting on 878AD presented by Amy-Jane Humphries and Professor Ryan Lavelle

1.30pm – 2.00pm
(Re)imagining Internet based Representational Practices f or Cultural Heritage Content: Exhibiting MC/F/100 From the Glasgow School of Art’s Archives and Collections presented by Ala’a Al Badarin

2.00pm – 2.30pm
Explore Malmesbury: Creating stories across a living town and 2,800 years of history presented by Campbell Ritchie

2.30pm – 3.00pm Break

3.00pm – 3.30pm
Qatar’s past reimagined: reconstructing its most important archeological settlements presented by Maria Garcia-Abadillo & Grant Cox

3.30pm – 4.00pm
Using 2D and 3D digital tools for a fresh perspective on a well-known artwork presented by Neil Jakeman

4.00pm – 4.30pm
Improving sustainability in Digital Cultural Heritage Interpretation presented by Geoff Browell & Tam MacDonald

4.30pm – 5.00pm
Virtual Cities – Interpreting and Re-Constructing the Past of 1400 & 1800 in Winchester present ed by Dr Debs Wilson

5.00pm – 5.30pm
Closing Panel Discussion Chaired by Amy-Jane Humphries (Hampshire Cultural Trust) & Professor Ryan Lavelle (University of Winchester)

Panel Members:

» Ala’a Al Badarin (MSc Heritage Visualisation, Glasgow School of Art)
» Geoff Browell (Head of Archives and Research Collections King’s College, London)
» Grant Cox (ArtasMedia)
» Maria Garcia-Abadillo (Head of Digital at Barker Langham)
» Neil Jakeman (Senior Research Software Analyst, King’s Digital Lab, King’s College London)
» Tam McDonald (Founder & CEO Cradle of English)
» Campbell Ritchie (Chair of Malmesbury Town Team CiC, Town Councillor & Project Leader for Explore Malmesbury)
» Dr Debs Wilson (Senior Lecturer in Digital Media & Founder of Virtual Cities Ltd)

5.30 – 7.00pm
Networking & Refreshments



OPENING KEYNOTE: Amy-Jane Humphries (Hampshire Cultural Trust) & Professor Ryan Lavelle (University of Winchester)
‘In the Footsteps of Alfred the Great: Reflecting on 878AD’ 

Amy-Jane Humphries (Hampshire Cultural Trust) and Ryan Lavelle (University of Winchester) give the inside track on the development of 878AD, which opened in Winchester at the end of 2022. This innovative visitor attraction combines video game assets from Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and real artefacts, to tell the story of 9th-century Winchester at the time of the Vikings.

This presentation discusses the ways in which traditional museum interpretation interacts with digital media to the benefit of both. Amy and Ryan will provide particular insights on their roles in the development of 878AD and the creative challenges involved in representing history to a popular audience. 

*Ala’a Al Badarin (MSc Heritage Visualisation, Glasgow School of Art)
‘(Re)imagining Internet based Representational Practices f or Cultural Heritage Content: Exhibiting MC/F/100 From the Glasgow School of Art’s Archives and Collections’ 

The study discusses an experimental endeavour to reimagine online representational practices for digital heritage objects. It focuses on two current display models, object-centred and object-driven, used to study and exhibit museum and archival holdings. The study recognises what characteristics each of these models has and how they can potentially affect audience notions of understanding and perception of the presented artefacts.

As a result, it identifies a discrepancy between the largely ingrained cultural norms with which museum audiences approach objects and how they are exhibited on these institutions’ internet-based platforms. Moreover, It looks at the affordances of the digital object in each presentation model and questions the potential they could have to inform and be emotive in their engagement with their intended audiences if presented in conjunction.

To examine that, an artefact was chosen to be exhibited from the Glasgow School of Art’ Archives and collection, an iron-cast wrought Bell or MC/F/100 as named in the GSA archives. The Bell was added as part of a metal sculpture which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and placed in the School’s Mackintosh building. Unfortunately, after a devastating fire in 2018, the building along with the sculpture was severely damaged, the Bell itself, however, was not affected as it was taken off the Coat of Arms in order for a replica to be made for the Mackintosh visitor centre.

The project explores the prospects of presenting not only the material attributes and functions of heritage artefacts but also the potential of showcasing their relationships and connections to the people and cultures that make, use, and relate to them and how that can reflect on our broader conception, emotional correspondence, and reconfigure our relationships to digitised collections. (*Unfortunately this talk did not go ahead)

Campbell Ritche (Chair of Malmesbury Town Team CiC, Town Councillor & Project Leader for Explore Malmesbury)
‘Explore Malmesbury: Creating stories across a living town and 2,800 years of history’.

‘Explore Malmesbury’ is a multi-media supporting web app, including augmented reality interpretations using Unreal, providing users with themed trails, ‘Explore’ immersions and points of information across Malmesbury town centre.

Telling the stories of Malmesbury at the places they happened, it’s aim is to encourage more and longer visits to Malmesbury and increased spending in local businesses. Launched in Spring 2021 multi-media content is continuing to be added and its story telling potential developed. An associated Facebook page and a ‘commercial layer’ for use by local businesses are being launched this year. Malmesbury is a small vibrant market town in North Wiltshire with a unique and bountiful history.

The paper and demonstration will cover:

  • Why we set out to create ‘Explore Malmesbury’
  • What we wanted to show
  • Creating a community project
  • The digital solution we choose – Web app, database, front end display, navigation options, multi-media capability, historical reconstructions and paper based options
  • Key capital and revenue costs and fundraising
  • The working solution
  • Marketing, engagement and support – introducing Explore Malmesbury to users
  • Results so far and learning points
  • Next steps
Grant Cox (ArtasMedia) & Maria Garcia-Abadillo (Head of Digital at Barker Langham)
‘Qatar’s past reimagined: reconstructing its most important archeological settlements’

This is a combined proposal by digital heritage specialists ArtasMedia and global cultural consultancy Barker Langham. We are Grant Cox (ArtasMedia) and Maria Garcia-Abadillo (Head of Digital at Barker Langham) and we have worked together in several digital heritage projects in the past five years.

We are delighted to talk about our most recent work together, which consists of four reconstructions of Qatari archaeological settlements, some of which had never been fully
reconstructed before. With the help of archaeologists and subject matter experts in the field, we managed to imagine how these cities would have looked in their respective heydays,
some going back to the early 1700s. 

On the technical side, the primary software used to create the various reconstructions in this project was Autodesk 3DS Max supplemented by the Vray renderer, a commercial grade animation and modelling suite built to handle any kind of CGI archive and output. In combination with Vray, 3DS Max provides a highly flexible and professional pipeline designed to produce imagery at the highest potential level.

The Plugins such as Itoo’s Forest Pack and Rail Clone were also used to build procedural elements into the work & covered the creation of natural elements such as landscape, foliage and architecture. This provided the ability to employ a parametric procedural approach, a series of rules that dictated how elements would appear.For a digital heritage project, having flexibility in this regard was crucial because it facilitated both quick communication and feedback on designs and the efficient construction of the final archive.

Neil Jakeman (Senior Research Software Analyst, King’s Digital Lab, King’s College London)
‘Using 2D and 3D digital tools for a fresh perspective on a well-known artwork’.

Early in 2020, five paintings by Titian came to the National Gallery in London, together for the first time in possibly hundreds of years, just as the pandemic closed down public spaces for several months.

In response to COVID-19 restrictions, we developed an approach for remotely viewing a prominent artwork which considered different perspectives (both physical and metaphorical) of interpretation and gave voice to alternative readings. Our work was integrated into an AR application developed by Playlines which allowed users to virtually place an artwork in their home and offered different curatorial journeys to follow.

One such journey was the result of a conversation between Neil Jakeman, a Research Software Analyst at King’s Digital Lab, and Tom de Freston, an Oxford based, multimedia artist. The conversation was triggered by Jakeman’s simple digital 3D reinterpretation of Titian’s Diane and Actaeon, which allowed for both a naïve close reading of the work by a non-expert and an informed critique from a trained fine artist.

Since the original research in 2020, new tools now present opportunities to revisit the methodology and consider a systematic use of a variety of off-the-shelf digital tools to provide insight. This paper will describe the methodology used and invite discussion about potential application in other settings.

Geoff Browell (Head of Archives and Research Collections King’s College, London) & Tam McDonald (Founder & CEO Cradle of English)
‘Improving sustainability in Digital Cultural Heritage Interpretation’

A precarious project-focused mentality and grant-induced island hopping between contracts and initiatives has been an understandable feature of digital scholarship in the United Kingdom for more than three decades.  Drawing on the examples of London’s AIM25 in archives and XRchiving in extended reality, this talk will argue that for digital cultural heritage to thrive and become sustainable, it needs to identify new audiences; find new uses for methods and technologies developed since the 1980s; and build public and private interdisciplinary communities of expertise to share ideas and costs, iterate best practice and advocate more systematically and collectively.   

The emergent ecosystem of digital cultural heritage interpretation will share features including a recognisable public identity, common metadata standards to share information, an understanding of the economics of the cultural and creative industry, and an ability to identify rapidly changing needs and global challenges such as around health and wellbeing and emerging technologies.

Dr Debs Wilson (Senior Lecturer in Digital Media & Founder of Virtual Cities Ltd) 
‘Virtual Cities – Interpreting and Re-Constructing the Past of 1400 & 1800 in Winchester’

An exploration of the use of 3D modelling technology to recreate the historical city of Winchester in the 15th and 18th centuries. This project aims to provide an immersive experience of the past by combining historical research, architectural modeling, and interactive storytelling. By leveraging digital tools, this project offers a new way of interpreting and experiencing the city’s rich history, making it accessible to a wider audience.


Ala’a Al Badarin (MSc Heritage Visualisation, Glasgow School of Art)

Ala’a Al Badarin is a Heritage professional; receiving her MSc in heritage visualisation from the Glasgow School of Art, she has an academic background in Digital Heritage and work experience in the Jordanian cultural-heritage sector. Ala’a has managed and coordinated several rehabilitation projects, liaising with the Departments of Antiquities and the Ministry of Tourism, among others. Additionally, she has experience developing cultural-based visual communication and promotional materials. Her area of interest is the intersection of culture and technology, studying ways to interpret, disseminate, and preserve cultural information.

Geoff Browell (Head of Archives and Research Collections King’s College, London)

Geoff is Head of Archives and Research Collections within King’s Libraries and Collections, with responsibility for the preservation of records relating to the university and affiliated institutions spanning more than 200 years, including historic scientific, medical and humanities research, the lives of students and staff and the contribution of King’s to invention and societal progress.

He also manages the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King’s, which houses more than 800 personal paper collections on defence, diplomacy and security from 1900 onwards. This is a growing collection that includes archives created by recent security and military challenges such as 9/11. His wider remit includes responsibility for the digitisation of historic archives for teaching and research, digital preservation and university digital asset management.

He is chair of AIM25, a charitable consortium of the archives of 150 cultural organisations in London, including those of major universities, learned societies and local authorities; and the national Health Archives and Records Group. Geoff’s career has ranged from early modern religious and military history to the use of technology to improve access to heritage and documentary heritage, for recently in Africa. Current projects include a new oral history of King’s, in preparation for its 200th anniversary, and leading the London component of the pan-European Yerusha project that is transforming access to archives relating to Jewish people and organisations.

Grant Cox (ArtasMedia)

Grant has been creating 3D graphics for projects that include both still and animated CGI. Primarily working from within the heritage sphere, Grant has collaborated on high profile
projects in the UK, Italy, Bermuda, the UAE, Egypt and Qatar. During this time, he has worked for institutions such as the British Museum, the BBC & contributed to the 2015 Milan
Expo and Damien Hirst’s 2017 “Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable”. He currently has active exhibition installations at Brighton Pavillion Museum (UK), The Novium
(Chichester, UK) & Gods House Tower Arts Space (Southampton, UK).

Maria Garcia-Abadillo (Head of Digital at Barker Langham)

An expert in the development and design of digital content for cultural projects, Maria contributes her skills across our interpretation projects. She has worked on museums, exhibitions and experiences in Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. She also oversees Barker Langham’s digital experience work, ensuring that we are at the cutting-edge of international practice. Maria is a talented interpreter with a strong academic background in digital humanities, providing her with keen insights and an imaginative approach to creating innovative visitor experiences.

Amy-Jane Humphries (Hampshire Cultural Trust)

Amy-Jane works in the heritage sector and has recently completed her MA in History at the University of Winchester. Her thesis examined the queenship of Margaret of Anjou and Henrietta Maria during the Wars of the Roses and the British Civil Wars.

The range of her main research interests is largely encapsulated by this dissertation, but she has since begun to explore the queenship of the early-Hanoverian queens, Caroline of Ansbach and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and the role of their respective daughter- and mother-in-law, Augusta, Princess of Wales. Amy is particularly interested in historical narratives that are obscured from view, especially in the public sphere, and is always striving to make sure these stories are told. She is therefore interested in both global queenship and local history, because sometimes the stories closest to us are the ones we lose sight of first.

Neil Jakeman (Senior Research Software Analyst, King’s Digital Lab, King’s College London)

Neil has led technical development on a number of projects, including collaborating with the University of Wales to create a database of archaeological and palaeo-linguistic evidence regarding the origin of the Celtic language in the Bronze Age. He created a text and manuscript comparison tool for the study of vectors of transmission of medieval French. His role within the Lab has now evolved to encompass cultivating new projects and relationships in the digital community and beyond as a Project Analyst. As one of three permanent analysts in the Lab, Neil oversees has particular responsibility over those which involve digital creative practice in emerging technologies such AR, VR and real-time engines. He is an accomplished 3D modeler, photographer and, occasionally, guitar player. Neil’s background is in geospatial data and applications although he now concentrates his personal research efforts on creative digital technology. Alongside his own projects and collaborations, Neil assists academic colleagues with digital research methodologies and developing funding applications.

Professor Ryan Lavelle (University of Winchester)

Ryan Lavelle is Professor in Early Medieval History. He is a member of the Wessex Centre for History and Archaeology (having been convenor between 2014-19) and of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Research. He gained his first degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York. He studied for a PhD at Winchester, which he was awarded in 2002.

An internationally recognised expert in Anglo-Saxon Winchester and King Alfred, he is the author of the award-winning book Alfred’s Wars: Sources and Interpretations of Anglo-Saxon Warfare in the Viking Age. In October 2018, he chaired the event ‘Bernard Cornwell, in conversation on the making of England’ and presented ‘The Death of Cnut the Great and the End of the Viking Empire’, both part of the BBC History Weekend 2018, which is held annually in Winchester.

He chaired and organised the 2017 conference ‘Winchester, a Medieval Royal City’, hosted by the University, and has been acting as historical advisor for The Last Kingdom, the hit BBC series, based on the novels by Bernard Cornwell, that tells the story of King Alfred and the birth of England. He was also involved in the development of 878AD, the immersive visitor attraction bringing Anglo-Saxon Winchester to life, which opened in 2022.

Tam McDonald (Founder & CEO Cradle of English)

Specialties: Entrepreneurial business development; communications and marketing; online publishing and community engagement; not forgetting 20 years as a mentor at London Business School summer school. And through all of this, an insatiable curiosity for the present reality and future potential of the human brain, allied with an unquenchable enthusiasm for the durability of the human spirit.

Campbell Ritche (Chair of Malmesbury Town Team CiC, Town Councillor & Project Leader for Explore Malmesbury)

Campbell is an experienced business leader and HR professional. Now retired, he is Chair of Malmesbury Town Team CiC, a community interest company working to support the economic well-being of Malmesbury High Street and local businesses, and a Malmesbury Town Councillor. He has been Project Leader for Explore Malmesbury from its inception.

Dr Debs Wilson (Senior Lecturer in Digital Media, Co-Founder of CEDI & Founder of Virtual Cities Ltd) 

Dr Deborah Wilson is Co-Founder of the Community for Enterprise, Design & Innovation at the University of Winchester, Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for the Digital Media, CAD and 3D programmes. Deborah is also Owner/Designer of The Talking Walls since 2008, a research platform for multimedia, visually rich, educational applications for users to explore cultural heritage sites across specific time-slices, defined by architectural changes to the property.

Deborah’s PhD (Practice-Led Design) ‘Curator, Designer & Visitor Interaction in Cultural Heritage Interpretation Design Practice’ involves the relationship and possible collaborative knowledge exchange between the three parties and design processes used for collaborative interpretation design at heritage sites. She has led externally funded projects, for example: Beaulieu Abbey funded by SMART micro project funding £45,000; Hyde Abbey funded by HLF, £10,000 and Malmesbury Abbey, £20,100 funded by Malmesbury Town Council & Vale Action/EU Common Agricultural Committee/Malmesbury Civic Team. Deborah is also currently developing a project prototype ‘Virtual Cities-Winchester’ reconstructing a section of Winchester in medieval and Georgian periods, working with students, across faculties and external professionals. She has recently founded a spin-off company ‘Virtual Cities Ltd’ to progress the Virtual Cities-Winchester project to a commercial application.


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