The Bones of Our Past!


It is our pleasure to announce the theme for #THJ2017. This year, our theme draws from the ‘Skeletons: Our Buried Bones’ exhibition currently being hosted at the Leeds City Museum by the Leeds Museums and Galleries in partnership with the Museum of London and the Wellcome Collection.


The announcement of the theme also means that registration for the jam is now open and work can commence for both our online jammers (who have until the 26th of October to complete their innovative visualisations) and for our in-person jammers (who can bring any pre-made materials they desire to the jam on the 27-28th October). 

The exhibition provides a rare glimpse into the lives of the individuals who have gone before us and the history which lays beneath our feet. From an Iron Age male and female found buried together at Wattle Syke near Wetherby, to a Medieval soldier killed at the Battle of Towton and a victim of the Black Death from London, the ‘Skeletons: Our Buried Bones’ exhibition explores what the bones of our past can tell us about time long gone and provides valuable insights into our current lives (Leeds Museums and Galleries). Our in-person jammers will get the opportunity to get up close and personal with the exhibition with a guided tour and a short Q&A with the Leeds Museum Curator of Archaeology.

Whilst the theme draws its inspiration from the ‘Skeletons: Our Buried Bones’ exhibition we encourage our jammers to think outside the box, perhaps finding further inspiration from oral histories, wider heritage sites and the skeletal remains of boats or buildings. We hope the possibilities this theme offers sparks your imagination, whether you are an artist, archaeologist, heritage professional, gamemaker or  a creative type wanting to dive into some heritage interpretation. We are looking for ideas which push outside of the box, and push people's perceptions of Heritage through their ingenuity - so what are you waiting for? Check out our partners' information on the exhibition for more inspiration:

Or perhaps take a moment to take a look at our brand new pinterest board that the #THJ2017 team will be adding to in the lead up to the jam, 


So go on! Sign up now. 

If you have any questions please feel free to email, tweet or send us a message on facebook. 

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

In the last blog post we revealed that the Heritage Jam is collaborating with Leeds Museums and Galleries to host #THJ2017 at Leeds City Museum. In this week’s blog post will shine a spotlight on our collaborators, giving you, our jammers, a taster of what the brand new 2017 Heritage Jam location and partnerships will bring.


Leeds City Museum by Leeds Museums and Galleries

Leeds Museums and Galleries is made up of locations which aim to ‘collect, preserve and interpret historic and cultural collections and historic sites and use them as inspiration for educating, entertaining and informing the people of Leeds as well as visitors to the city’ - (Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2017). The nine locations offer diverse experiences, and if you are planning to jam with us in person we highly recommend exploring the varied, exciting and ground-breaking exhibitions, collections and events that our partner has facilitated.

Recent visually inspiring exhibitions have included “Fashionable Yorkshire”, hosted at Lotherton Hall. This exciting exhibition focused on how fashion has changed throughout history, using both the real garments and artistic impressions of Yorkshire women’s fashion from the 1600s to the 1970s. The contextual and tangible approach to visualising the past is definitely something we hope our jammers are inspired by!



Fashionable Yorkshire: Photography Ash Zombola / Model Rosie Nelson / Styling Nina Beresford / Dress Loan Cunnington & Sanderson / Hair and Makeup Kay Spaven / Art Direction The Archipelago

A further example of innovative interactions between art and heritage was the exhibition titled  “A Graphic War”, which saw contemporary sculptures by artist Ian Kirkpatrick installed to investigate the Leeds Museums and Galleries First World War collections in order to “uncover the underlying mythologies, anxieties and fears they reveal about life in Leeds during wartime” (Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2015). The innovation and artistry in these exhibitions speaks to the power and potential of heritage visualisation outside of the box - it is our hope that working in such a vibrant and innovative space will provide ample inspiration for #THJ2017.


A Graphic War. Image by Ian Kirkpatrick.

Whilst all nine of the Leeds Museums and Galleries locations (which can be explored online here) have a strong lineage of challenging heritage interpretation, it is the brilliant Leeds City Museum that will act as the physical location for the 2017 jam. This stunning building is located in the heart of Leeds City Centre - allowing our jammers convenient access to transport, accommodation, food and a huge variety of cultural heritage!

LeedsMap THJ2017.PNG










The Leeds City Museum was established in 1819 and reopened in 2008, where it now acts as a hive of dynamic heritage practice, hosting a wide variety of thought provoking collections which challenge visitors to experience the past in exciting, thought provoking ways. Why not have a look through the online material provided by the museum for some inspiration whist you wait for the reveal of the 2017 jam theme on the 18th!


Inside Leeds City Museum by Leeds Museums and Galleries

The city of Leeds offers great opportunities for our in-person Jam participants. It was voted among one of the top ten travel destinations in the world by Lonely Planet (  boasting a flourishing cultural scene - as can be seen from the wealth of museums and galleries within the city. Furthermore, it has a prominent art, food and craft community. So if you are planning on joining us in person for the jam we have you covered: whether you want to kick back and relax after a day of creativity, or head into the city to keep the inspiration rolling.

The Heritage Jam 2017, in Leeds, we hope to see you there!

Be sure to follow our partners and host location on twitter:

Twitter: &

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

Post by Isobel Christian

We have exciting news: The Heritage Jam is back for another year of creativity and innovation at a brand new location!

This year the Heritage Jam will be partnering up with Leeds Museums and Galleries to relocate the Jam from the cobbled streets of York to the vibrant city of Leeds. This year the Jam will take place in the ever inspiring Leeds City Museum. 

This exciting new partnership and location allows for the expansion of the Jam and brings with it lots of exciting new possibilities for our participants. We hope that moving to this renowned heritage space, which is home to some fascinating collections, will inspire jammers to think outside the box, pushing heritage visualisation into exciting new territory.

[Leeds City Museum by Beverley Cottrell ]

[Leeds City Museum by Beverley Cottrell ]

So, what is the Heritage Jam, and how does it work? The Jam is a creative event centred around the visualisation of heritage where participants can work individually or in teams to create fabulous visualisations on a given theme. There are two elements of the Jam, an online section, which will run from the 18th of September to the 26th of October, and the in-person Jam, which will be held on the 27th and 28th of October. Check out our “about” pages for more information on the history and operation of the Jam!

In previous years the outcomes of the Jam have been exciting and hugely varied - ranging from fine art pieces, 3D models and games through to stories, sketches and videos - we are excited to see what our participants will create this year! The only limits within the Jam are the theme, time and your imagination! If you are hungry for inspiration take a look at our gallery spaces to see all the incredible things that past jammers have made.

[Discovering Eboracum by Valeria Cambule, Stephen Elliott, Patricia Smith, and Laura Varley. One of the 2015 entries, this image shows a visualisation of their app design.]

[Discovering Eboracum by Valeria Cambule, Stephen Elliott, Patricia Smith, and Laura Varley. One of the 2015 entries, this image shows a visualisation of their app design.]

The Jam allows people of all walks of life to participate, whether you work within the world of heritage, are a creative practitioner, or simply love heritage and want to have a crack at making something exciting. In the past we have had artists, animators, designers, programmers, archaeologists, historians, conservators, museum professionals and heritage practitioners involved - there is space for everyone and all types of creativity at the Jam.

Each year the Jam is revolves around a different theme. Past themes have included ‘Burial’, and ‘Museums and Collections’ (check out the outcomes from these themes in our gallery). The Heritage Jam 2017’s theme will be revealed on the 18th of September.

[Voices Recognition by Stuart Eve, Kerrie Hoffman, Colleen Morgan, Alexis Pantos, and Sam Kinchin-Smith. A 2014 entry for the theme ‘Burial’]

So what are you waiting for? Save the dates and join the conversation by following our Twitter and Facebook pages. We can’t wait to see what amazing new ideas this year brings!

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

The 2015 Heritage Jam – which was kindly supported by the Department of Archaeology at the University of York - ran as both an online and in-person event, the former taking place from the 24th of August till the 24th of September whilst the in-person event ran from the 25th till the 26th of September. The event, whose purpose is to encourage participants to investigate, innovate and challenge heritage visualisation practices, was a roaring success once again, with seven and twelve individual entries. The diversity, quality and artistic merit in the entries exceeded all expectations and our brilliant judges – Carolyn Lloyd Brown, Sara Perry and Kate Pettitt – had an incredibly hard time deciding on the winners for the event.

Following two days of intense creation our in-person jammers finally downed their tools at 4pm on the 26th to present their creations. All four of the teams had done incredibly well and had produced four outstanding entries which demonstrated incredible technical aptitude, artistic merit and innovation but a winner had to be chosen, so after significant discussion it was decided that the in-person winner was to be the fabulous “Happy Gods” game created by Edwige Lelièvre, Sam Devlin, Juan Hiriart and Matthew Tyler-Jones. The game draws from the Yorkshire Museum’s Roman collection to explore the dynamic relationship between daily life, religion and the realm of the gods in Roman York. The player is challenged to appease the gods through offerings, but to decide what to offer they need to consult with the ivory bangle lady who will point the player to clues held within the Yorkshire Museum collections. Alongside the game the team pulled together a website so players could easily engage with the game from home. The judges were blown away by the scope and quality of the work and commended the team for the innovative way they had blended game mechanics across a stunning art-style to create a new and exciting way to engage with the collections.

It was impossible to decide a second-place between the remainder of the in-person entries and subsequently it was decided that all the teams would share the “highly commended” award. Team “Discovering Eboracum” created a fabulous app which leveraged GPS and iBeacon signals to layer multiple narratives between physical locations in York and artefacts found in the Yorkshire Museum. Our judging team commended the team on the incredible way which the team had blended and located stories and objects into the landscape, creating a tangible link between the Museum floor and the wider York geography. The team of Luke Botham and Mathew Fisher created an Augmented Reality app which drew data from the ADS Armana Archive, and using targets located in the real-world, augmented the 3D artefacts into that space. In the presentation Botham and Fisher commented that the targets could be placed onto the shirts of museum workers and armour augmented onto them, creating a “living experience” in a museum context. The judges complimented fantastic use of ADS data and encouraged the team to continue development in the future. The final highly commended project for the in-person jam was Jo Pugh’s QR code bookshelf, which linked the delicate and untouchable books held at the Yorkshire Museum to pages where the text could be found and a Soundcloud file of part of the book being read – thereby making the collection accessible and interactive even though the artefacts themselves remained too delicate for handling.

The online individual competition was won by Anthony Masinton for his spectacular entry “Cryptoporticus” – a game which explored the personal, evolving and often cryptic experience of exploring and coming to know museums and collections. The judges were left speechless by the emotive and clear rendering of such a complex topic. The highly commended entry in the online individual jam was awarded to Stuart Eve for his impressive implementation of “The Dead Man’s Nose” in the Moesgaard Musem and grounds. The outcome used geo-located smells to augment the olfactory past over the presented past. The judges were astounded by the technical capability demonstrated in the outcome as well as the innovative implementation of an often overlooked sense in heritage representation and engagement.

The online team competition was taken out by Hannah Sackett and Howard Williams for their work on the “Völund Stones: Weland the Smith” comic. The graphic interpretation and comic-book form facilitated novel layers of heritage interpretation and presentation, qualities which our judges felt embodied the spirit and goals of the Heritage Jam. The highly commended entry from this category was awarded to Matthew Tyler-Jones and Catriona Cooper’s extraordinary Twine game “Among the Ruins”, which our judges complimented for the way it carefully wove multilinear narratives in with reconstructed auralization techniques and visual elements for the house and gardens at Clandon.

Finally our judges were given the opportunity to each award a “judges choice” prize to the entry which captured their interest. The first of these awards was given to “Team Dialogue with a Fish” for their work on the short film “Dialogue with a Fish” which brilliantly remediated archaeological artefacts, using the video media form to great effect. Second of the prizes was awarded to Shawn Graham’s “Listening to Watling Street” – an ingenious intervention which took visual markers and generated music from them, allowing you to experience the spatial and temporal considerations of the Roman world in an entirely new way. The final of the “judges choice” prizes was awarded to Katherine Cook’s “Epi.Curio” which sought to capture the taste of the past by reimagining objects through recipes which are collated through the Epi.Curio site.

The Heritage Jam team would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Department of Archaeology at the University of York, the Yorkshire Museum and it’s fabulous curator of archaeology Natalie McCaul, the ADS, our judges and additional partners who made the event not only possible but a thoroughly enjoyable, impactful and exciting experience. We look forward to updating the website over the next few days with the judge’s comments and the online jam entries and staying in touch regarding developments for the 2016 Heritage Jam. If you have any feedback that you would like to give please fill our feedback form or email us. 

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

On the evening of the 25th our in-person jammers had the incredible opportunity to sleep over in the historic building of King's Manor. Many of the jammers had taken the chance earlier in the evening to check out the YorNight exhibitions happening around the Manor before settling in after it closed to continue working on their projects. Our friendly porter for the evening visited us just prior to midnight to give us a safety briefing and regale a ghost tale or two before leaving our jammers to settle in for the night. 


Despite the tales of ghosts all of our jammers had a restful night under the beams of the Huntingdon room and come the morning we were rejoined by our local jammers before work began once more. Work is now well underway and presentation time is approaching - best of luck to our jammers for the coming day!

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

After the museum trip our jammers returned to King’s Manor to flesh out their concepts and start working on their projects. The three teams have come up with three distinct and intellectually stimulating projects:

The first team has come up with the idea of creating an app which uses characters from the Yorkshire Museum collections to interface the viewer with items from the ADS archives and places around the city - taking the individual pieces and geo-locating them around the city-scape of York. The app is to be based on Llama Digital’s “” framework and will leverage GPS and iBeacon technology to activate the data as the user moves around the space.

The second team has ambitiously started to work on a video-game based upon the god-figures held in the Yorkshire Museum - starting with the god “Genius” you must figure out what offerings you require to appease him, using the ivory bangle lady as your guide. At each level up you will move on to a new god - a new piece of the collection.

The final project on the go is an augmented reality app which will allow museum goers to view objects behind glass and from the ADS catalogues from all angles, add them to a personal collection with tie-ins to twitter and gamification avenues.

Overall the creativity, inspiration and teamwork has been incredibly positive today - we are now settling in for the overnight portion of the jam which includes the unprecedented opportunity to sleepover in the historic King’s Manor!

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

York Museums Trust curator Natalie McCaul welcomed Heritage Jam participants to the Yorkshire Museum this morning with a superb introduction to the collections held at the museum,  and her hopes for the Jam.  Gathered together in the newly opened library,  surrounded by wall to wall shelving crammed with antique books and a huge stuffed bear in the corner,  Natalie explained:

"I'm really excited to see what you come up with to help visualize our collection. Some of our objects are not in display condition and we're really keento see ways in which they can be made accessible, not only for those coming on a physical visit,  but also for users who cannot come to the museum".

Participants quizzed Natalie about specific collections the Museum is interested in Jammers working on:

"Textiles are difficult to display- colours fade so they are great to focus on for thinking of creative ways to visually interpret them. Also lots of the stone carvings you see around the museum - they would have been painted in different colours and is not something we often think about".

More questions followed about the Museum's audiences and how people engage with the collections. Natalie stressed how linking the objects with real people and finding ways for the public to relate to the artefacts on a personal basis was important. Also vital is the ability to appeal to the variety of visitors c who come to the museum.

"We are really interested in layered interpretations so we can engage lots of  different visitors with different learning styles".

Armed with expert insights,  Heritage Jam participants were let loose in the museum to gather ideas and inspiration for the projects they'll be working on over the next two days here at the University of York.

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

We have a little over a week now before our Online Jammers need to submit their visualizations - those of you signed up through the website will have recieved the following information in an email, but we thought we had better post it here just in case as well!

Important Dates and Info:

Submission for the online jam closes at midnight (GMT +1) on the 24th of September 2015 but you can submit at anytime before that, following the instructions laid out below.

To submit your piece please attach it / link to a download for it in an email and send it to along with the supporting documentation and information outlined below.

Projects can be in any state of completion: from first drafts and rough sketched ideas through to fully implemented projects - just be sure to explain it briefly in your paradata document!

If you are competing as part of a team please nominate one person to submit on your behalf! No need to double up. 

Checklist for Submitting: 

  • The project
    • Zipped file containing the files and / or a link to a repository where we can download it (for example googledrive)
    • Instructions for how to install / run / open the project if applicable
    • If the project is unfinished / draft stage please submit the most stable / complete entry with a brief note explaining the state of the piece
    • If the project is unstable / unfinished please write into your paradata the further development requirements and consider submitting the source files for the project
    • If your project is physical / requires specialist equipment to run / is tied to a particular location please send us documentation of it in use so our judges and viewers can get an impression of the project. For example a video of it in use, photos of it installed etc.
    • If you have any questions related to submitting the project please get in contact with us. 
  • Source Files
    • Submitting source files is optional but encouraged. 
    • “Source file” refers to the in-progress piece which can be opened in the editor/s you were using to create the piece.
  • Images / videos for the Gallery
    • One of more images or videos that can be used as the header information for the website gallery as an introduction to your project
    • If your project is a image (poster, photo, artwork) you might also want to submit an additional image (close-up of features, progress picture etc) which could also be featured on the site
    • If your project is not visual in nature (ie it is audio / text based) please consider submitting an image of the construction process or an image which otherwise represents the project in some way
  • Brief Bio and CC info
    • A brief bio of yourself (and your team-mates if applicable), your relationship to heritage visualisation and any links to professional / personal webspaces or social media you want to appear on your submission.
    • Please include with your bio a note about any additional CC or acknowledgements  and which part of the project they apply to - if you have used 3rd party assets please acknowledge them here too.
    • For more on the CC information regarding THJ2015's use of your project please refer to our content policy: 


  • Paradata
    • A document of no more than 1000 words that outlines the micro and macro data involved in creating the project
    • Paradata is meant to be a quick, fun and informative snapshot into what you made and why. 
    • You can submit your paradata as pictures, comics, words – feel free to be creative but remember it is supposed to be a short overview of your project and processes not an exhaustive list!
    • Some questions you might want to briefly outline in your paradata are:
      • Why has the resource been created and for what audience?
      • How will the resource be put to use? Is it accessible?
      • Why did you choose to approach the topic in the way you did? (IE: impressionistic, analogue, schematic etc)
      • What were the basic steps you went through to produce the piece?
      • What source material / supporting evidence did you use?
      • Have you acknowledged uncertainty in the resource? How did you manage ideas of interpretation?
    • For more information on paradata refer to:
    • For examples of paradata please check out any of the 2014 entries here:

What Happens Once You Submit?

Once you have submitted the THJ Organising Team will process your entry and place it in the Online Gallery where others will be able to view and comment on it. We will email you with a link once your entry has gone live so you can share it. 

Your entry will be exhibited at the YORNight expo, held at the University of York's Department of Archaeology on the evening of the 25th of September. 

All entries - both online and in-person will be judged by a panel of heritage visualisation specialists on the 26th of September and results announced immediately after. 

Feel free to share your project as it is in progress by using the twitter and facebook hashtags #THJ2015 or by posting in the forums, and if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to get in contact with us via any of the ways listed on the contact page (

We encourage you to share, comment and compliment other jammers as they post their work!


AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

This week we feature a guest post from Katie Green of the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) - you can find the ADS online at or follow them on twitter at @ADS_Update and @ADS_Chatter

The Archaeology Data Service (ADS) is a discipline-specific digital repository hosted by the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. The ADS was established in 1996 in response to the growth in archaeological data creation and the recognition of the fragility of digital data. Over the past 18 years, the ADS has become widely recognized for excellence in digital preservation and in developing and disseminating guidance on standards for archiving, not just in the archaeological community, but on a much wider scale. ADS’s remit is to support research, learning and teaching within archaeology with freely available, high-quality and dependable digital resources. The ADS does this by preserving digital data in the long term, promoting and disseminating a broad range of data in archaeology and providing technical advice to the sector via the ADS website.

 The ADS website provides a hub for all the guidance and advice offered by the ADS, as well as providing the access point for the multiple resources held by the ADS. The main ADS resource is Archsearch , an integrated online catalogue indexing over 1,300,000 metadata records comprised of, ADS’s archival collections, and metadata harvested from external archaeological inventories, such as the National Inventory from Historic England, Canmore from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Archwilio from the Welsh Archaeological Trust.

 The ADS’s archival collections include over 30,000 unpublished grey literature reports, thousands of journal articles and over 600 data rich project archives which can be searched here.

 These data rich archives are a vast treasure trove of digital heritage data. Here are just a few archives that we think could be used creatively during the Heritage Jam:

 Drawing and Image archives

 Society of Antiquaries of London Catalogue of Drawings and Museum Objects 

In its early years, the Society of Antiquaries of London (founded in 1707), acted as a centre for gathering information on archaeological discoveries and historical objects in private hands. Many items were drawn for its meetings and publications in the 18th and 19th centuries. As a result, the Societies library holds the most important national collection of historic drawings of portable antiquities found in Britain. This archive includes over 3000 digitized images of these items.

 HMJ Underhill Archive

 The archive consists of a collection of hand-painted glass (lantern) slides that depicted the "Megalithic Monuments of Great Britain," dating to 1897-1905 and attributed to H.M.J. Underhill. The slides showed the stone circles at Stonehenge, Avebury, Stanton Drew and the Rollright Stones. Miscellaneous slides depicted other prehistoric monuments: Menhir at Dartmoor and the Sarsen Stones and Wayland's Smithy on the Oxfordshire Ridgeway.


Oxford Expedition to Egypt: Scene-details Database


The Oxford Expedition to Egypt Scene-details Database provides users with a simple means of examining information about scenes and scene details preserved on the walls of tombs dating to the 'Old Kingdom' or 'Pyramid Age' of Ancient Egypt (c. 2650 - 2150 BC). These tombs lie in cemeteries dotted along the c. 600-mile length of the river Nile in Egypt. This archive contains the drawings of the scenes and the accompanying documentation.


3D Data Archives

The Virtual Amarna Project


A series of significant objects form the Egyptian site of Amarna were digitized using a Konica Minolta Vivid 9i triangulation laser scanner. The digital objects are part of the Virtual Amarna Museum - a web based "museum" providing public access to these objects as part of the Amarna Project's web materials. A range of objects were involved - including stone stele, ceramics, pendants, moulds and selected architectural elements. The raw data from a portion of the scanned objects are available in this digital archive.

 Newport Medieval Ship


The Newport Medieval Ship was discovered in the west bank of the River Usk in Newport, South Wales in 2002. Although the well-preserved vessel had been partially salvaged, substantial portions of it were intact. To document the ship assemblage, archaeologists used contact digitisers and CAD software to create 3D wireframe drawings of each hull timber, and a laser scanner to record carefully chosen artefacts such as rigging. This digital approach to documentation was continued by the use of selective digital photography, and the digitisation of the original excavation photographs, site drawings, and timber records. The archive contains over 12,500 files including timber record sheets, hull schematics, specialist reports, artefact catalogues, 3D timber drawings, site photogrammetry, site drawings, digital solid models of each structural timber, excavation, timber and artefact photographs, and a project database.

 Three dimensional modeling of Scottish Early Medieval Sculpted Stones


In the past all records of Scottish Early Medieval sculpted stones have been presented to a mass audience via text, drawings and photographs. A range of technologies have now become available that allow digital three dimensional records of archaeological material to be generated which capture the size, shape and texture of the target object. From these records digital three dimensional models can be created. This archive contains 20 models of Scottish Early Medieval Sculpted Stones and some of their surroundings.

 Breaking Through Rock Art Recording

The main objective of this project was to assess the reliability, accuracy and precision of 3D laser scanning for recording purposes and to evaluate its capacity to discover new carved motifs invisible to the naked eye. In addition the project assessed the potential of the technology for monitoring rock surface decay, and examined its value as a visualisation and presentation tool. The study was undertaken at two stone circles in Cumbria which exhibit megalithic art: Castlerigg andLong Meg and Her Daughters (pictured right), on the Copt Howe panel also in Cumbria, and the Horseshoe Rock in Northumberland. The 3D data and accompanying images and documentation from this project can be found in this archive.

 Unless a form of Creative Commons  licence is clearly attached to a particular data collection and the Creative Commons logo is prominently displayed on that data collection's introduction page the ADS terms of use and access apply

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick
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This week we are so excited to announce five of our fantastic partners for the Heritage Jam 2015 - The Department of Archaeology: University of York, Yorkshire Museum, YorNight, Mavin and Bivouac. As such the blog post this week will put these partners into the spotlight. As always we appreciate your tweets, forwards, likes and favourites (especially ones which include our fabulous partners) - and remember to include the #THJ2015 hashtag!

The Department of Archaeology: University of York

The Department of Archaeology at the University of York has been instrumental in facilitating and supporting the Heritage Jam since its inception in 2014. The department has been recognised internationally as a centre for excellence and innovation in teaching and research - and it is this passion and innovation from which the Heritage Jam draws its roots. This year the department has once again gone above and beyond to support the innovation and development of heritage visualisation through their continued support of the jam. This year the department will also graciously open its doors as the location for our in-person jammers - an unprecedented opportunity to work, play and sleep-over in a beautiful Grade I listed building which hosts some truly cutting-edge research. We encourage you to check out the department's home page, research log and twitter as there is some fantastic inspiration for the 2015 "Museums and Collections" theme to be found on there.

Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum can be found in the striking Georgian era building situated in a stunning garden setting adjacent to the impressive ruins of St Mary's Abbey - all of which is conveniently just a stone's throw away from the University of York's Archaeology Department. The museum has graciously partnered up with #THJ2015 to provide an exciting opportunity for our in-person jammers to get behind the scenes to chat with a curator and take part in a tour of some of their fantastic collections. For those of you working online, or looking for a little bit of early inspiration, the Yorkshire Museum also has a brilliant set of online collections which are hosted and accessible through their website. The museum can also be found on twitter - and we encourage you to follow, tweet and share work inspired by their incredible collections.

Image Credit: Kaly99 via wikipaedia:

Image Credit: Kaly99 via wikipaedia:


The Heritage Jam is running alongside the fantastic YorNight research night, which promises fun activities across a wide range of topics (including #THJ2015) starting from 5.00pm on the 25th of September. Thanks to this great partner our in-person jammers will have the opportunity to showcase their prototypes to the YorNight attendees, getting valuable feedback and engagement on their designs and visualisations as they create. A space will also be set up to showcase the online jam entries, providing valuable exposure, feedback and engagement with a wide array of researchers, industry experts and members of the general public.

Those attending the in-person jam will have the opportunity to attend other sessions on the night - so be sure to check out the YorNight website and twitter.


The Heritage Jam believes that working alongside industrial partners external to the academic or heritage sectors provides interesting avenues for researching and developing visualisations. For 2015 we are excited to partner-up with the computing specialists - Mavin - who are graciously assisting with prizes for our in-person jammers. Be sure to check out their web-space and follow along on social media for inspiration grounded in the digital industry.


Our final partner to be announced this week is the brilliant, York based, Bivouac - a design company with significant experience designing and developing visualisations for heritage partners. Our jammers will have the opportunity to have their works viewed and judged by one of the country's leaders in heritage visualisations, gaining much sought after feedback from those actively shaping and implementing heritage visualisations on the ground right now. Our in-person jammers who are coming to York for an extended stay will also have the opportunity to check out some of their visualisations at heritage sites around the city - including designs installed at the National Railway Museum, Cold War Bunker, Merchant Adventurers Hall and The Army Museum. For more information, examples and ideas of current heritage visualisations check out their web-space and social media sites.

We would like to extend our thanks to all our fantastic partners for their enthusiasm and support for the 2015 Heritage Jam - we are excited to be able to extend our impact to academic, industry, public and creative sectors and we look forward to working alongside you to grow, challenge and pursue innovation in heritage visualisation.

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

Blog Post by Izzy Bartley (@FireflyHeritage)

Today we announced the themes for the 2015 Heritage Jam: Museums and Collections (which you can read more about HERE). This week our blog post will pick up on the theme to discuss my experiences with museums and collections. Hopefully this will provide some inspiration for those about to tackle the theme for themselves as part of our online or in-person jams! (Remeber that you can sign up HERE for all the various competition elements too!)

Theme for the 2015 jam: Museums and Collections. 

Theme for the 2015 jam: Museums and Collections. 

The act of collecting seems to be an integral part of human nature.  For me collections say so many things.  They transport me back to the school playground and the hours spent collecting stickers, swapping them with my friends, creating typologies and orders, continually sorting and re-sorting them.  Collections astonish me by illustrating how people living in geographically separate locations have come up with similar solutions to the same problems (wooden neck pillows used in both Thailand and Sudan, for instance).  And of course, as well as highlighting our commonalities, they can celebrate our diversity.  

Natural history collections can be used to trace the evolution of species, measure climate change and chart ecological successions.  An object can connect multiple narratives, or a narrative can connect multiple objects.  Collections provide an endless stream of inspiration. 

Sometimes the thread that ties the collection together is obvious.  Sometimes it is unfathomable, unless we are let in on the secret, such as the collection below, each item gifted to a little girl by the crows she feeds every day:

(Image Source:

(Image Source:

I am self-confessed lover of curiosity cabinets.  I can’t help it, they make the ends of my fingers tingle (generally because I want to pick everything up and examine it).  As the museums that we know today grew out of these 17th century ‘wunderkammers’, many private collections became public, and magnificent buildings were constructed to hold the ever increasing collections.  The Yorkshire Museum, just round the corner from King’s Manor here in York, officially opened in 1830, which makes it one of the oldest museums in England.

(Image credit: "Yorkshire Museum" by Kaly99 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.)

(Image credit: "Yorkshire Museum" by Kaly99 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.)

Today, new museum buildings are some of the most innovative and creative examples of modern architecture, either in their own right, or as an extension to the historic, original building, where the collection has outgrown the space.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons.)

(Image credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons.)

Our graphic for this announcement symbolizes the amazing variety of museums that exist, from the buildings themselves, to the wonderfully diverse collections within (and outside in our bedrooms, cabinets and bags) them, and the endless stream of narratives they can tell.  Basically, all the things we love about museums and collections!  


 We can’t wait to see how you interpret the theme(s), either at the on-line or the in-person jam. So get jamming!

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

By Tara Copplestone (@gamingarchaeo)

The Heritage Jam team have been busy pulling together a once in a lifetime opportunity for those attending the in-person portion of the jam! We know that hostels can be expensive but also that sleep-overs and Grade 1 listed buildings are awesome, so we combined these latter two options to help you save on the first and ensure a truly memorable experience over the course of the jam. So without further ado we are proud to announce that this year our in-person jammers will have the opportunity to sleep-out in the King's Manor - a beautiful, quirky and historically rich building right in the centre of York.

The remainder of this blog-post will be a quick run-down of some of the amazing history you will be able to share a night with during your stay - to find out more about the technical details of the sleep-over please check out our FAQ and announcements page.

St Mary's Abbey Ruins - Photo Credit: Wikipedia Photo Commons.

St Mary's Abbey Ruins - Photo Credit: Wikipedia Photo Commons.

An Abbott's House and a Seat of Power:

The first phases of the building are associated with the stunning ruins of St Mary's Abbey which are located in the museum gardens to the rear of the site. During this phase an Abbot's House was located on the premises. During the Dissolution of the monasteries the house was retained by the Crown and was subsequently allocated to the council of the North and in 1561 the site officially became the residence of the President of the Council. The majority of the construction occurred during the reign of Elizabeth I, when the courtyards were substantially extended.

During the late 16th century the President of the Council of the North, the Earl of Huntingdon - Henry Hastings, carried out further extensive renovations - adding a residential wing and service buildings. Much of the stone work used in this set of renovations was re-claimed from the St Mary's Abbey. The room in which we will be staying for the sleep-over - The Huntingdom Room - is part of the Elizabethan extension, although it gathers its name from the Earl of this time and boasts a plaster frieze bearing the arms of Henry Hastings.

A Manor Fit For a King:

The Grand Entrance to the Manor - Photo Credit: York Conferences.

The Grand Entrance to the Manor - Photo Credit: York Conferences.

Perhaps the most famous use of the Manor was during the Stuart era - during which the Stuarts leveraged the prime location of the Manor as a stopping point on their travels between Edinburgh and London. Further extensions were developed over this time - a new U-shaped court-yard was added and the Council Chamber was updated.

The abolition of the Council in 1641 had knock on effects to the Manor - effectively stopping all in-progress and planned constructions, eventually leading to the Manor being divided into appartments and leased out in 1688. The use of the Manor as a seat of power and royal residence was over - and a new era was about to begin.

A School For the Blind:

Following a significant period of decline the Yorkshire School for the Blind took over the Manor, gradually renovating and restoring the buildings from the 1870s onwards. Further extensions during this time included the construction of a cloister - sectioning off an area which creates the second courtyard at the Manor - as well as the Principal's House, which sits to the right of the main entrance to the manor. The school vacated the premises in 1958 after which the Manor was acquired by the York City Council who maintained the property until its subsequent lease in 1963 to the University of York.

A Home for Archaeology:

View from the entrance games showing the Centre for Medieval Studies and the first block of tutorial rooms for the Department of Archaeology. 

View from the entrance games showing the Centre for Medieval Studies and the first block of tutorial rooms for the Department of Archaeology. 

When the University originally took over the Manor it was used to host the Institute for Advanced Architectural Studies. A series of restorations during this time replaced the old school-rooms to the rear of the building with a more modern tutorial block which is now home to the Department of Archaeology. The Manor also hosts the centre for Medieval Studies and the Archaeological Data Service - making it a foremost location for all things historic, archaeological and digital... perfect as a setting for the Heritage Jam!

The Manor is a much loved part of University life for the archaeologists who work, study and research here - at every turn there is a story to unfold, told through the quirky irregularities in courtyard sizes, the patchwork of re-used masonry and the impressive royal and government crests which adorn the site.

Your Home for the Jam:

We look forward to welcoming the in-person jammers to the Manor for what we promise will be an unforgettable night.

There are no longer any King sized beds in which you can stay here - so you best bring a sleeping roll and bag - but plumbing has improved considerably since the Elizabethan times, meaning we have a set of showers and bathrooms ready for use for the event. In the morning a host of top-notch cafes are right on the door-step and if you are in need of a breath of fresh-air the museum gardens, hosting the beautiful ruins of St Mary's Abbey are located just to the rear of the building.

So make sure you save the date - the 2015 Heritage Jam, and the incredible opportunity to sleep-over in this stunning building are not to be missed!

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

Blog Post by Izzy Bartley (@FireflyHeritage)

"Jamming" is a relatively new concept for heritage studies. This week the blog post will introduce some key concepts and highlight what you can expect from the 2015 In Person portion of the Jam!

Ok, so what exactly is a ‘Jam’

A jam is when people with a common interest (in this case heritage) come together for a limited time period in order to bounce ideas off each other, plan, design and create a response to the Jam’s particular theme. We’ll be releasing the theme week beginning 17th August, so follow us on Twitter or Facebook or join our mailing list to make sure you get updates as they’re published.

The 2015 York University Heritage Jam is running as two competitions, one online - from the 20th of August till the 24th of September - and the other in-person (which will be the focus of this post), for two days – Friday 25 – Saturday 26th September. Set aside time for the online or in-person events (or both) and be part of an exciting, creative activity, culminating in an interactive exhibition of all the projects produced over the course of the Jam.

What experience or skills do I need?

None! All you need is an interest in history and heritage and a desire to make something! That’s the beauty of jamming - you get to meet and if you want to, collaborate, with a wide mix of people. Some jammers may have specialist skills such as programming or digital modelling, some may be poets or artists and others will have hands on practical skills. You bring to the jam whatever skills, knowledge and inspiration you have, and you leave with a whole lot more. The emphasis is on exploring ideas, learning new things and generally having a good time with like-minded people who want to do creative stuff related to heritage.

So, can I come on my own or do I need to be part of a team?

You can do either. You can come on your own and work on your own if you wish. Or, if you want to work as a team, but don’t have others to come with, that’s no problem - we can help you find a team when you arrive, or feel free to search out and pre-plan a team through the forums (which will be opening soon!). Alternatively if you’re already sorted with a team, that’s great too, you can start creating from the 20th of August for the online competition, or come along together for the in-person event.

Are materials provided?

We’ll supply stationery such as pens and paper and the very important power strips. If you want to use a computer, you will need to bring your own laptop and any specialist equipment you think you’re going to want. You are responsible for any equipment you bring with you. There’s a great list of online visualisation tools and Apps on our Resources page to get your creative juices flowing.

Ok, this is sounding great, but how much does it cost?

The Heritage Jam is FREE. Yes, that’s right, it’s free to participate ☺

What about food?

2014 Entry: Death (and burial) by Chocolate - Triptych - A.J. Bailey

2014 Entry: Death (and burial) by Chocolate - Triptych - A.J. Bailey

The Heritage Jam will provide snacks and light refreshments (and stay tuned for further announcements next week!). The refectory in Kings Manor will be open on Friday and sells hot and cold drinks and food. The in-person jam location is right in the heart of York, with plenty of lovely cafes, pubs and restaurants around, as well as corner supermarkets nearby.

How do I get there?

This year the in-person jam is being held at the home of the Department of Archaeology: the historic Kings Manor, York (YO1 7EP)

We are a 10 minute walk from the train station and there are several car-parks available near by for those who wish to drive. A more detailed list will be posted closer to the time.

Where can I stay?

We have some exciting news coming soon - follow the updates on Twitter, Facebook and the website over the next few weeks for more information on this.

How do I sign up?

Sign up will open on the 20th August 2015. Again, follow us on social media or join the mailing list to keep up to date with news:



AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

By Tara Copplestone (@gamingarchaeo)

It is with great pride and excitement that I am now able to announce that The Heritage Jam will build on the roaring success of 2014 and return bigger and better than ever for 2015. This brief blog post will overview the history of The Heritage Jam alongside what it means to create through such an event before profiling what is on offer in the 2015 installation of the event. Don't forget to save the dates and follow #THJ2015 on Twitter, Facebook and through our mailing list.

The Heritage Jam was first instigated at the University of York in 2014 as a way to encourage interested individuals (heritage professionals, artists, photographers, programmers, game designers, general public) to experiment, collaborate, challenge and create heritage visualisations in a confined amount of time, to a central theme. Whilst such creative sprints are standard practice in the video-game industry they were relatively novel to academic fields, although are increasingly gaining traction as an effective method for rapid prototyping and creative experimentation. The first Heritage Jam in 2014 was thus an experiment into how effective "jamming" might be for Heritage practices as well as a chance to critically engage with the making and visualising practices. Despite being a unknown quantity at the outset the 2014 Jam exceeded all expectations with, as Dr. Sara Perry [2014] noted in her write up of the Jam:

"92 registrants from most continents of the world, 17 official entries submitted by 37 contributors, 249 Twitter followers & 161 tweets, and 474 Facebook followers from more than 40 countries, speaking more than 30 languages, with a total reach of posts to over 6600 people."

The level and breadth of engagement was astounding - as was the inventiveness and quality of all the submitted works:

"You only need to browse the entries in the gallery to see the remarkable talent that infuses the tiny proportion of the heritage sector that registered for the Jam. This is important, because there is ample evidence that creative experts working in the heritage sector are undervalued, underpaid, underestimated and often undermined. Part of the intent of the Jam was to expose the depth and breadth of expertise amongst the professional community, and the possibilities that come with actually investing in such expertise."

Whilst the engagement and results were both reflections of a fantastic event it was the paradata and feedback from participants which Dr. Perry discusses as being the real value of "jamming":

" required openness to creating things quickly, which means making mistakes and wrestling with practicalities and exposing one’s process, and hence one’s potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses; it demanded doing just as must as intellectualising, which can be problematic given how theoretical much extant ‘archaeological representation’ discourse is; and the in-person event hinged upon teamwork, which as any educator will tell you, can go horribly wrong—but, in the best cases, can equally blow you away in admiration."

My own experience of the 2014 Heritage Jam reflects this sentiment - working to tight time frames, themes and skill caps whilst paradoxically having the freedom to create anything I desired fostered a space where I was allowed to be creative but critical, freeform yet structured. In the end, whilst I was incredibly proud of my final game and the skills which I had learnt along the way of creating it, the real value came from exploring how and why I create the way I do and taking the good, bad and ugly moments from the experience, analysing them in the context of wider heritage practices and learning from them. My seasoned game-development partner for the jam, Luke Botham, similarily found his normative practices challenged via the collaboration, a learning curve which opened new doors to interpreting, understanding and visualising heritage.

As heritage professionals we rarely get the opportunities to create outside of our standard practices (time, money and skills being stringent limitations) whilst others from external disciplines (be them artistic, technical or general interest) rarely get the opportunity to engage with or influence how the past is visualised -the jam format allows the freedom for experimentation and collaboration which transcends these boundaries whilst still focussing critical attention where it matters. Orson Welles is often credited with saying that "...the enemy of art is the absence of limitations" and in the case of the Jam these limitations become the structures which drive creativity and experimentation.

In 2015 The Heritage Jam wants to grow this spirit of critical experimentation and collaborative creativity by offering two Jam categories with solo and collaborative options available in each track. The "Online Jam" will run from the 20th of August till the 24th of September whilst the "In-Person Jam" will run over two full days, from the 25th till the 26th of September. A huge array of surprise announcements are planned for both the in person and online events - so be sure to watch this space! The theme will be announced and registration opened on the 20th of August, but for now be sure to save the dates, surf the updated website and start thinking about how you will participate in this fantastic event.

If you have any queries or questions regarding The Heritage Jam please feel free to get in contact with us by leaving a comment here or directing your query via email.


Perry, S. 2014. The Power of Making, Or What it Means to do Archaeology Through Creative Experimentation With Media. Day of Archaeology. 18/07/2015.

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

by guest blogger TARA COPPLESTONE (follow Tara on Twitter @gamingarchaeo or on her own blog The Gaming Archaeologist)


Realism and reality are pretty loaded terms within the wider discourse on archaeological visualisation (see Goodrick et al. 2004).  Whether the piece in question is a painting, photograph, movie, standalone digital reconstruction or part of a larger interactive narrative, the use of labels such as authentic or realistic will spark hot debate regarding the quantification, legitimacy, authority, interpretation, extrapolation, and transparency of not only the outcome but also the data sources, author and the methodological and theoretical frameworks that informed its construction (Molyneaux 1997 & 1999). Despite the long history of discussion on archaeological visualisation these debates remain largely unresolved, in part because the term realism can be difficult to pin down in relation to archaeological themes, but also because the purpose of the outcome so often defines how these debates should be framed and presented within the visualisation (Ogleby 2005). This blog post does not aim to break any new ground on this subject, but rather through example, demonstrate a cross section of some of the key debates surrounding realism in archaeological visualisation utilising the 3D reconstruction of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' as an example. 

The Example:

'Clifford's Tower 1263' was created over two weeks to fulfil the requirements of one of the core modules on the Masters of Archaeological Information Systems at the University of York. The module required the creation of a visualisation on any subject, provided it had tangible archaeological or culture-historic significance. I selected Clifford's Tower as it is a prominent land-mark in an area dramatically altered by time. Throughout the process of creating the visualisation I grappled with a conflicting archaeological and text-based record, a limited personal skill set in digital reconstruction and balancing the requirements of academic rigor and research with public interfacing and entertainment.


Image 1: Overview screen-shot of 'Clifford's Tower 1263'

The outcome, as demonstrated above, took into account the larger settlement of the area, not just the tower itself, and afforded you the freedom to explore the tower, keep, and surrounding area up until the boundary of  St Mary's precinct - the idea being to create context, and afford the viewer the ability to understand the interactions between key elements in the reconstructed landscape. 

In retrospect the tight timeframe and my inexperience with 3D modelling and texturing meant the project could never be realised to its full potential, or be produced to the standard I had initially imagined. The final review of the project called into question the validity of many of my constructs  - how does the viewer know which elements are based on archaeological fact, and which parts were creatively extrapolated? In the areas of conflicting data, how was this conflict shown? How does an appeal to realism impact the authenticity of the model? Does several layers of compounded conjecture, extrapolation and fabrication render this construction misleading or invalid? These concepts subsequently have been playing on my mind and as such I will seek to explore a number of them through this post.

Copplestone Figure 2.jpg
Copplestone Figure 3.jpg

Image 2 (left) and 3 (right): Demonstrating overview shots from the top of the tower and behind St Marys Precinct respectively.


Realism: The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Misleading

One of the key criticisms of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' related to its appeal to an unadulterated realistic form (even if it never actually attained acclaim for seeming realistic due to my inexperience in 3D modelling). This criticism has been discussed to death starting with inked site drawings and interpretive artworks, being reborn with the popularisation of site photography and now reaching a crescendo in the age of 3D modelling and virtual spaces (see Piggott 1978, Roussou 1999, Rua and Alvito 2011).

A cursory glance through both published articles and more casual blog posts reveals how complex and contested the idea of realism for archaeological visualisation is - on one hand it is often characterised as the pinnacle of illustrative work, the point at which the artist can pat themselves on the back with a smug smile of contentment upon hearing a consumer mutter in awe "that is incredible, I can't believe it is not real!". The flipside of this is the notion that when something becomes visually (or phenomenologically) realistic the consumer stops challenging its authority, and accepts the presented visualisation of the past as fact - a dangerous and slippery slope which potentially ends with the internalisation of misinformation and falsification. Further to this realism is often closely tied to concepts of authenticity and believability which further complicates the situation.

It is a challenge which is not so easily resolved, as there are as many arguments are there are counters, and for as many reasons there are to strive towards realism there are equal and opposing reasons for abandoning that ship in favour of more stylised waters. But before we can take a stance on this notion it makes sense to understand the scope and impact of realism and reality.

What's in a name?

The concept of reality or realism can be taken in a number of different veins, and as such the successful navigation through of their complexities often relies on pinning down exactly which aspect you are challenging. You could infer it to mean a photorealistic render of a setting in which the technical modelling, lighting and scene create a believable imitation of the real world. It could be interpreted as the visual presentation of real data - the visualisation being a realistic rendering of what is known whilst excluding or making evident the extrapolation. Or alternatively it could refer to the creation of a visualisation of any form which evokes the feeling, experience or memory of person, place or object - the creation of a real, tangible embodiment - a category which Clifford's Tower 1263 was originally aiming to capture. But these ideas are not only the domain of ongoing academic debate, but also have wider social implications for public engagement and understanding. These end-point consumers have developed their own frameworks and structures for navigating, understanding and generating meaning from archaeological visualisations - understandings which are often as diverse, conflicting and complex as those which formed the visualisation.

Realism: Is it really so real?

Realism as we will discuss in this section refers to both a philosophy and a school of aesthetics. To briefly summarise it can refer to an attempt to represent a subject matter truthfully, avoiding artificiality or implausibility, and as such covers not only the pursuit for a realistic aesthetic, but potentially also the pursuit of representing reality as the subject. This definition has some obvious tensions at face value and is deeply problematic in reconstruction, interpretation and visualisation for archaeology as so often we only have fragmentary remains which necessitates the extrapolation of forms, ideas and meaning (Isenberg 2013; Rahaman, Das and Zahir 2012).

The aesthetic side of the discussion, at face value, appears to be the easiest to resolve. The closer to reality a visualisation appears, or feels, the greater its quotient of realism. In other words a high resolution photograph of the real world would represent a high fidelity of realism whilst abstract expressionism would most likely represent low fidelity realism. This division becomes a touch muddied if you allow a wider definition of realism or a discourse of its constituents. Or if you enter into a discourse about the reality of what is being represented realistically. In the case of the latter we could identify a photograph as being realistic, but also identify that the realistic rendering is of a staged, framed and static moment and as such is not necessarily realistic, even if it is aesthetically photo-real. Regarding the former we run into issues if we accept realism can supersede the purely visual and take into account concepts of persistence or presence (the feeling of a virtual world being real, and the feeling of actually being there). The discourse on presence and persistence is something I am hugely passionate on being an avid Oculus Rift user, but it is an issue which extends far beyond the scope of this paper and as such we will move on.

The philosophy of reality and realism posits some difficult quandaries by proposing that differential realities or interpretations of reality may be able to co-exist in any number of given forms. In other words, we may internalise and project reality differentially, and as such any given visualisation will be a representation of the base media which is then viewed and constructed into a visualisation by the author which is then understood through the reality framework of the consumer (Daston and Galison 1992). As such a shared, empirical standard for realism may not be attainable in the present, let alone when attempting to visualise the past. In light of this it may well be tempting to fall into existential nihilism, however hold onto some optimism for a bit, as it may also be possible to occupy a tenuous middle ground in which we understand visualisations as a reflection of compounded realities. The outcome of this discussion is that reality and realism may be better understood as constructs, and that rather than pursuing an empirical standard for the portrayal of reality in visualisation it might be more worthwhile to instead seek to understand the frameworks and structures which informed the various lenses of construction.

In the case of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' there was a concerted effort to create presence alongside an attempted aesthetic realism by avoiding stylisation, implausibility or the supernatural. However, the representation has a significant amount of creative construction, meaning it is not necessarily a truthful visualisation as it contains significant amounts of artificiality. However, if we were remove all the elements of conjecture we are left with almost an entirely blank slate. Interestingly, whilst this overcomes the issue of artificial construction, it creates a whole new one: artificial reduction. Which leaves us stuck between a rock and a hard place: on one hand we avoid artificiality by removing anything fabricated, but in doing so we cross over to the other hand where we are forced to interact with an artificially reduced image of the past. There is no hard and fast solution to this as a correct judgement rests on the purpose and parameter of a given work as well as in the way which we frame and implement ideas about realism and reality. In the case of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' the goal was to create a realistic feeling of being in the precinct, a brief which leant heavily on the processed reality approach discussed above and somewhat ironically required significant fabrication to produce an outcome which felt and looked more real. If the brief had been to represent a truthful reality based on archaeological remains alone a more appropriate outcome would have been to appeal to an artificially reduced reality. 


Image 4: Demonstrating what Clifford's Tower Bailey would look like when all structures and assets not directly evidenced are removed.

To summarise: the notion of realism in archaeological visualisation is difficult as it draws not only on pure aesthetics but also on concepts of authenticity, truthfulness and artificiality. If we adopt a position of absolutes - taking realism to mean only aesthetic, or only accuracy, the tension can be nullified on one side, but at the cost of exponential issue compounding on the other. There is also the potential to take a liberal stance on philosophic aesthetics and realism - by accepting that representations of reality will be reflections of the author and the physical we can circumvent issues of absolutes, a solution which whilst workable, still requires discussion, and may not sit well with those of quantifiable dispositions.  

Representing Real Data

As mentioned in the introduction, one of the key criticisms of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' was that there was no way to tell between what was well evidenced by the archaeological record, and what was extrapolated. In other words what was 'real', what was 'probably real' and what was 'probably not real but it looked good'. Using two innocuous houses from the model we will explore some of the ways to deal with this quandary, however, as we have become accustomed to over the preceding paragraphs there will not be any hard or fast resolutions. 

Copplestone Figure 5.jpg
Copplestone Figure 6.jpg

Image 5 (left) and Image 6 (right): Demonstrating before and after asset removal. 

Image 5 demonstrates the scene setup - detritus from every day work and life scattered around the houses - boots at the door, cunning chickens taking advantage of dumped grain sacks, tools for tomorrow's work waiting for the new day. The scene tells a story. A story which whilst based on evidence from comparable settlements has no record in the Clifford's Tower area. So in Image 6 they have been removed -  leaving a sad, empty scene, albeit a better evidenced one.

The textures themselves pose somewhat of an issue: the brick textures from the walls were originally taken from a photograph I took in the Tower precinct. But these are bricks which have endured 800 years of weathering, replacement and human modification, so not the most realistic representation of how they may have looked in 1263. As such I made a trip to the mason's market at the Minster to take photos of fresh hewn stones only to discover that the stone was cut in different sizes, from a slightly different stone type to what I required. The resulting textures are a combination of the photographs taken of the tower, the masons market and excessive amounts of Photoshop. So if we are going for realistic representations of fact we should probably do away with those to leave an image un-marred by artistic liberties in texturing. As image 7 demonstrates this solves one issue of realism at the expense of another - the problematic, and unrealistic textures have been done away with, but we are left with an equally unrealistic grey-scale world. 

Copplestone Figure 7.jpg


Image 7: Demonstrating the removal of ambiguous textures


Removing the textures only goes so far to providing an understanding of  which elements are well evidenced, which have some evidence and which are artificial extrapolations. To try to overcome this issue a transparency was applied to anything which was not well evidenced, and colour codes applied - green representing well evidenced material, transparent orange for those where there is some evidence but not enough to be sure of total form, and red representing areas that are extrapolated. 

Copplestone Figure 8.jpg



Image 8: Demonstrating the codification of ambiguity

Whilst the codification presents an interesting assessment of the liberties I took in the visualisation it lacks the experiential and immersive quality of the original visualisation by substituting the realism of archaeological fact for a more realistic expression of a possible past. I suspect that the decision about the success of any of these outcomes would be determined by the purpose of the visualisation. If the purpose of the visualisation is to understand the variation of certainty in the reconstruction then Image 8 would be a roaring success, however if the purpose was to create an embodied experience of a possible past reality then Image 1 is probably more appropriate. Whilst there may not be the ability for these to co-exist in one image, there is the possibility for a series of visualisations to provide a more comprehensive intersection if the demands of the project afford it.

Realism: A Story About How I Both Succeeded and Failed In Justifying It

The decision to produce a piece in a realistic fashion was informed in no small part by the desire to try provide a phenomenological experience of the site which is impossible to gain in the physical world now due to modern interventions - and whilst it is certainly possible to feel presence without realism (ie: a piece of surrealist artwork or a low-poly video single-colour video game has the same power to provide an experience of place, time or event) it was decided that a realistic image was required to provide the immersed in time effect. The first question that I was posed was: how would this realism impact on public perception and the potential propagation of misinformation as fact?

To try to circumvent the issue of public consumption of misinformation in 'Clifford's Tower 1263' I implemented a start-screen which informed the viewer they were about to partake in a world which, whilst informed by archaeological data had several layers of conjecture, and as such, whilst it aimed to be believable and based on facts, it was probably not a very realistic depiction of the area. I thought this was a pretty elegant way to hold the hand of the viewer and make sure they walked away with a better understanding of Clifford's Tower and its context, but also knowing that what they had experienced was an artistic interpretation.

This solution seemed to appease the great archaeological overlords who helped me develop the theoretical backdrop for the work, but the reaction of family and friends (who are not archaeologists) was quite to the contrary. Their reactions spanned from "so you mean this isn't real? Why did you bother making it? And why am I bothering to play it?" to "of course it isn't real... " through to "I don't care, I just want to see what it looked like". Whilst comical in retrospect these kind of responses highlight how a seemingly innocuous decision to inform patrons had ongoing repercussions in some instances, and was a complete non-issue in others.

In short, issues of realism, or making evident the facade is a deep seated issue in public presentation which is linked to ideas about the role of archaeologists, the legitimacy of their interpretations and the reliance on realism as a mechanism for making images relevant. For some, no matter how realistic an image looks they will always frame it as an interpretation. But for others saying the reconstruction's reality was a facade that called into question my legitimacy as an archaeologist, as well as the relevance of the reconstruction to understanding the past.

There is no neat conclusion to this section, only more questions. Realism in archaeological visualisation is a tricky subject that has a wider context and influence than the isolated framework of academia - navigating these issues, as with the rest of the questions posited in this blog post, most likely will never have a static end point, but rather need to be considered on a case by case basis with reference to the current state and the desired directions of a given visualisation.


This blog post overviewed just some of the issues inherent in the concept of realism and reality for archaeological visualisation. Although no solid conclusions can be offered to resolve the complexities and conflicts it has been shown that by making explicit the purpose and paradigm of a visualisation a tenuous middle ground for academia and public engagement can be explored.  In the case of 'Clifford's Tower 1263' the form of the outcome was dictated by the function - and as such the criticisms regarding realism and reality, whilst valid, can be explained and justified. The topic of public engagement and the way in which reality and realism are framed by the consumer are incredibly complex strands of the debate which require greater attention that I can afford them here.  Looking towards the future it would seem that whilst we may not be able to reach an end point and agree on the best way to handle realism and reality in visualisations, we can at least mitigate a number of the prevailing criticisms by making explicit the function, and addressing how the form fits with this.


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Goodrick, G., Earl, E., Huggett, J. and Ross, S. (eds.) (2004). A manufactured past: virtual reality in archaeology. Internet Archaeology, 15.

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Rahaman, H., Das, R., & Zahir, S. (2012). Virtual heritage: exploring photorealism. Progress in Cultural Heritage Preservation, 191-200.

Roussou, M. (1999). Incorporating Immersive Projection-based Virtual Reality in Public Spaces. Proceedings of the 3rd International Immersive Projection Technology Workshop, 33-39.

Rua, H. and Alvito, P. (2011). Living the Past: 3D Models, Virtual Reality and Game Engines as Tools for Supporting Archaeology and the Reconstruction of Cultural Heritage - The Case Study of the Roman Villa of Casal de Freiria. Journal of Archaeological Science 38, 3296-3308.

AuthorIan Kirkpatrick

by guest blogger FLO LAINO (follow Flo on Twitter @FloLaino)

The Heritage Jam Vision 

The vision and purpose of the Heritage Jam is to showcase and celebrate the practice of heritage visualisation, and its importance to heritage practice as a whole. Today, the study of the past, both tangible and intangible, is recognised as necessary not only for investigating the events of history, but also for the role it serves in the understanding and crafting of our own identities, and the world around us - for building connections, for how we teach and learn, for how we relate to and value other people and things. Visualisation in heritage practice works in conjunction with the written word to record, interpret, and articulate ideas about the past. We use pictures as devices for communicating stories, for inspiring others, for evidencing and evaluating our contributions to knowledge, and for stimulating investment in our research, our fields of practice, our cultural institutions.

The world of heritage visualisation is a complex one, with diverse drivers, goals and consequences. Its outputs often are the means by which we come to know history and prehistory; they offer the gateway into discussions about personal and collective biographies, and the circulation and manipulation of materials and spaces across time. And, in turn, they influence the degree of importance that individuals and communities assign to their environment, from the tangible landscape, to intangible practices of culture-building and policy-making, to overall systems of value.

What animates us here, then, are a series of critical questions about visual practice and its relationship both to the archaeological and heritage records, and to larger processes of knowledge making and knowledge sharing:

  •  What are the boundaries between art and science in visualisation?
  • Can we separate our visualisations from entanglement in our own modern constructs and value-judgements?
  • How do we represent working method, for example, intention, process, uncertainty, imagination and narrative?
  • How to we control the second life of images and should we worry about their ability to be taken out of original context and/or misused?
  • How do we balance the imperatives of our art, against evidence, multi-vocal contributions to the interpretative process, and commerce in the production of our visualisations? 

We are among a long line of individuals and groups who’ve been motivated by such questions, and it is their investment in critical reflection and self-conscious attention to the affordances and tensions behind visual production that drives The Heritage Jam. We see visualisation as a critical player in exploring and navigating the intersections between the arts, humanities and sciences; and within the heritage sector specifically, we see it as a means for cultivating value, fostering creativity and wellbeing, occupying new spaces for thinking and doing, negotiating relationships between different publics (including professionals), and creating connections with local historic and cultural environments.

A look in retrospect, shows a history of visualisation in heritage that is long and diverse. Often credited with the popularising of the archaeological reconstruction, the discipline owes much to pioneering figures such as Alan Sorrell (1904-1974), whose singular style of illustration achieved a prominence and ubiquity during the 20th century. However, individuals working today represent a spectrum of approaches as dynamic and fluid as the theoretical developments within the discipline itself - demonstrating the potency of visualisation for enabling interpretation and guiding research questions.

Measured recording combined with powerful computational softwares, are forging a strong virtual reality movement, where predictive models can facilitate novel methods in hypothesis testing, framed around questions of space, light, sound, colour, volume.

3D model of the Guild Chapel, Statford-upon-Avon (Giles, Masinton, and Arnott, 2012). This, ‘functional’ or ‘cognitive model’ (Barceló 2001; Forte 2000) is used as a vehicle for demonstrating and navigating the paradata of the Guild chapel paintings in a non-linear narrative.

Whilst on the other hand, the canon of impressionist artists tests the boundaries of our human empathy, whereby the artistic and archaeological method is united to help us to frame questions and engage critically with the interpretations that are conjured inside our heads. Such visualisations can prompt us to ask - what does this narrative look like? Could this have actually been what was? What, of the modern world, is influencing my interpretation?

Taking, for example, the above work of archaeological illustrator Kelvin Wilson, whose work pushes against the arguments regarding the tenability of the narrative constructions required in heritage visualisation, as necessarily subjective and conjectural compositions. His visualisations are often framed around a specific question that is intended to provoke archaeological reasoning or response within the viewer:

“…Asked to form a narrative around one archaeologist's favourite find, she chose a necklace found in a Roman woman's grave, so pristine it made her wonder...

'Why was it so special to her?' …”

Speaking at the York Research Seminar series in 'This is Not Archaeology: The Interpretive Design of the Past', his stance is forged on the premise that archaeology should see empathy in visualisation as a powerful tool for revealing how our own contemporary life history and individual interests, complement and guide our understanding of archaeological data (Kelvin Wilson 2014).

Recent digital heritage interventions are further stretching the boundaries on what visualisation might achieve. For instance the Museum of London’s Street Museum App, or the History Pin website, both of which are championing new ways of building senses of place, and exploring relationships with the landscape based on embodied, user-controlled, sense-based, augmented realities and narratives. Similarly, other sites such as Retronaut, have proven popular in their ability to surprise by disturbing certain preconceptions about the past through their time-capsule-like collections. (Although these sites also demand critique for various reasons, including their tendency to ignore attribution and to circulate pictures in unbounded, untraceable ways.)

Screenshot taken from the landing page for the App on the Itunes store – showing how the App works.

Screenshot of a History Pin tour of the March on Washington, 1963.

‘Smiling Victorians’, time capsule of photographs of smiling Victorians throughout the 1800s, to rebut the common perception of the austere character of Victorians.

Colour photographs of occupied Paris in the 1940s – illuminates the desensitising and hardening effect of the black and white image.

In other ways, digital heritage visualisation organisations such as Cyark (whose mission is to build a 3D online library of laser scans of the world’s cultural heritage sites, freely accessible to the public, before they are lost), who champion digital methods of preservation, pose novel questions of what the nature of preservation is; the increasing ubiquity of the laser-aesthetic of electric yellows, reds and greens of their scans challenging our sense of what is beautiful in data visualisation, and how we value such outputs in society.

3D scan of Tudor Place, Neoclassical mansion, Georgetown dating 1795 CE – 1816 CE. 

The Heritage Jam seeks to shine a spotlight on the talent of those working in the sector. But why does heritage visualisation need this?

The Heritage Jam believes that giving greater voice and recognition to visual practitioners is vital to supporting innovation, culture-building, and the sustenance of heritage and the historic environment overall. At the heart of The Heritage Jam is a grassroots mission to bring together specialists and different interested publics in the building of both models of good visual practice and networks of sharing and collective creativity. It is our vision that the Jam will facilitate ideas and connections which will continue into the long term – whether this is through the continued development of experimental prototypes crafted at the Jam, or through growth of new working partnerships.

But most of all, for participants, the Jam is a unique opportunity to have fun, appreciate and reflect on the power of your craft skills, and draw inspiration from the past to shape the future. It is an invitation to explore your creative potential, produce new work, and inspire others to participate. Ultimately, we seek to facilitate spaces in which we can build our various heritage communities, break down walls between how heritage values are integrated into decision making in the present, and promote shared enjoyment and care of our many and diverse histories. 



Barceló, J.A. 2001 'Virtual Reality for Archaeological Explanation: beyond 'picturesque' reconstruction', Archaeologia e Calcolatori 12: 221-244.

Giles, K., Masinton, A., & Arnott, G. (2012). Visualising the Guild Chapel, Stratford-upon-Avon: digital models as research tools in buildings archaeology. Internet Archaeology, (32). doi:10.11141/ia.32.1


AuthorIan Kirkpatrick