Digital cultural heritage
and digital art in China
The first international conference of RICHES project took place in Pisa on 4-5 December 2014, entitled “Cultural heritage: Recalibrating Relationships”; the event was organized by project partner Promoter in the aristocratic venue of Palazzo Lanfranchi, a patrician palace on the riverbanks of Arno river, that hosts the collection of the Museum of Graphics of the city. The Beijing Youth Daily was media partner of the conference together with the e-zine www.digitalmeetsculture.net.
The conference opened in the afternoon of 4th December, when the about 100 attendees, after the registration and a nice welcome coffee, took seat in the large room of the second floor, fully dedicated to the conference. Welcome speeches of Antonella Fresa from Promoter, Dario Danti Chancellor of Culture in representation of Pisa municipality, Alessandro Tosi scientific director of the Museum of Graphics and Mauro Fazio from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development introduced the day. Then there were speeches by two associate partners of Riches project: Francesca Lanz from Politecnico di Milano about MeLa Project, on the topic of European Museums in an age of migrations; and José María MartÍn Civantos, from Universidad de Granada about MEMOLA Project, Mediterranean Mountainous Landscapes. Finally, Neil Forbes from Coventry University spoke about the vision, the research areas and the outcomes of RICHES project.
The evening was concluded with cultural activities: a guided tour to the exhibition of Tullio Pericoli, renowned Italian painter and illustrator, on show in the first floor of the Museum of Graphics, and a visit of a crowd-sourced exhibition of vintage photos, realized in the framework of another EU project about digitization of historical photographs, named Europeana Photography.
On the second day, the conference began with Neil Forbes who took again the microphone for the first keynote speech entitled "Assessing value in cultural heritage". It is widely recognized European cultural heritage is an important component of collective and individual identity and that it contributes to the cohesion of the EU and to the creation of links between citizens. At the same time, a number of challenges and pressures threaten to undermine this immeasurably rich endowment. The over-riding need, it is said, is to promote cultural heritage’s intrinsic value. But what is meant by ‘value’ in this context? The speech by prof. Forbes illustrated a few of the issues involved by drawing on selected examples of contested values around cultural heritage.
Second keynote speaker and honor guest from Peking was Xiaochun Situ with a lecture entitiled "Digital art and digital cultural heritage in China". The lecture focused on several aspects of digital art and digital cultural heritage, in three parts: the first part attempted to describe how Chinese artists, Chinese art critics and Chinese media think about “digital”. The presentation of the personal experience of Situ and the interviews of some artists, critics, galleries and art organisations directors were also aimed to understand the effect of the “digital” on the creative process and to give a personal opinion about the Chinese digital art’s status quo. Main objective of the second part of Situ’s speech was to investigate the state of digitalisation of cultural heritage in China, with a focus on libraries, museums and galleries. The data on digital cultural heritage has been acquired from the UNESCO reports, in order to understand which digitalisation projects were already completed and which organisations are working at it. This issue was discussed according to the introduction and implementation of the Chinese government’s directives, showing how the governmental organisations are working and providing some indications about what is on plan. Finally, considerations on the broader question “what is the future of digital culture?” concluded Situ’s lecture.
Although not present on site, the third keynote speaker of the conference was Bill Thompson from BBC , who provided a video speech and then virtually joined the event via skype for question and answers. The theme of his speech was "Broadcast Archives as Cultural Heritage: can the BBC engage as well as it informs, educates and entertains?", trying to investigate how a big broadcaster as BBC can now engage as a store and source of cultural heritage, if it is possible for BBC to permit unmediated access to the cultural assets it creates without mediation and control, and what impact technological innovation will have on the BBC’s future role.
Last but now least, Karol Jan Borowiecki intervened in the conference as fourth keynote, with a lecture about "Personal relationships and the formation of cultural heritage: The case of music composers in history". Using data on the lives of 522 prominent music composers born in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is shown how creative clusters formed in Paris, Vienna and London, and how locating in a musical city greatly increased a composer’s productivity.
After the lunch and the visit to the poster session of the conference, the second part of the day begun, introduced and moderated by Dick Van Dijk. The afternoon was conceived as a co-creation session, intended as an experimental activity aimed at demonstrating how the public can be creator (and so co-creator, together with the heritage professionals) as well as user of cultural contents. The co-creation session included participation of Janine Prins (Waag Society), Douwe-Sjoerd Boschma, Ilias Zian (National Museum of World Cultures, Leiden) and Emma Waslander (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam), Hodan Warsame, Simone Zeefuik and Tirza Balk (collective Redmond Amsterdam) and Laura van Broekhoven (Stichting Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden).
The conference ended with final conclusions and remarks, and the sense of having participated in a really interesting and international event: a wealth of consideration and input around the theme of reducing the distance between people and culture. In this sense, the overall topic of these two-days was recalibrating the relationship between heritage professionals and heritage users in order to maximise cultural creativity and ensure that the whole European community can benefit from the social and economic potential of Cultural Heritage.
The conference website: http://pisaconference2014.riches-project.eu/
The Riches project website: http://www.riches-project.eu/
The project Blog: http://www.digitalmeetsculture.net/projects/riches/