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.


Daston, L. and Galison, P. (1992.) The image of objectivity, Representations 40, 81-128.

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

Isenberg, T. (2013). Evaluating and validating non-photorealistic and illustrative rendering. Image and Video-based Artistic Stylisation, 311-331.

Molyneaux, B. L. (ed.) (1997). The Cultural Life of Images: Visual Representation in Archaeology. London: Routledge.

Molyneaux, B. L. (1999). Fighting with Pictures: The Archaeology of Reconstructions. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 12 (1), 134-6.

Ogleby, C. L. (2005). The 'Truthlikeliness' of Virtual Reality Reconstructions of Architectural Heritage: Concepts of Metadata. In The International Archives of Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Info Information Sciences 34, 192-9.

Piggott, S. (1978). Antiquity Depicted: Aspects of Archaeological Illustration. London: Thames and Hudson.

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