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DigiCULT
.
Info
14
B
RIDGING
THE
GAP
BETWEEN
TECHNOLOGY
AND
CULTURAL
HERITAGE
T
IJL
V
EREENOOGHE
, EPOCH
In March 2004 the new EPOCH
network started its activities.
EPOCH is a European Research
Network on Excellence in
Processing Open Cultural Heritage
(http://www.epoch-net.org), funded
by the European Commission under
the Community's Sixth Framework
Programme.
C
omputers have been used in cul-
tural heritage for many years, and
have now become an almost universal tool
for heritage professionals. In the last 10-
15 years there has been a proliferation of
organisations and projects applying ICT
solutions to cultural heritage applications.
On the one hand this has grown from
groups of technologists examining compu-
tationally interesting problems and requir-
ing data of real cultural heritage artefacts
and sites in order to demonstrate results.
On the other hand groups of cultural herit-
age professionals have found computation-
al tools that allow exploring their data and
new opportunities to communicate results.
Both groups have acted at least initially
with little reference to the other and to an
extent this process continues as the fields
reach ever more professionals working in
each area, each of which begin to experi-
ment for themselves.
T
he restrictions and potential of comput-
ers and the needs and intentions of sys-
tem developers and users have produced an
ongoing dialectic over many years. Yet, there
is much evidence of a lack of co-ordination
N
ow, roughly one hundred European
cultural institutions are joining their
efforts in the new EPOCH network, in
order to improve the quality and effec-
tiveness of the use of Information and
Communication Technology for cultur-
al heritage. A primary strategic objective of
the project is to integrate the currently frag-
mented efforts in research. EPOCH will
promote interdisciplinary integration by ini-
tiating and supporting a wide range of activ-
ities. These include activities to create an
integrated information base on the current
and potential use of ICT in cultural heritage.
Obstacles to progress in terms of both tech-
nology and socio-economic factors are to
be identified. Existing resources need to be
enhanced. Furthermore, EPOCH will per-
form research to complete the toolkit for
creating cultural heritage applications and
create an integrated infrastructure. The net-
work will strengthen the interdisciplinary
cohesion through projects, skills brokerage,
dissemination, education and training, as well
as online resources and events.
P
rofessor David Arnold (Dean of
the Faculty of Management and
between the disciplines. Well-known iconic
cultural heritage sites (e.g. the Colosseum in
Rome, Pompeii, the Parthenon) become the
subject of repeated projects. Less well-known
sites, which may be in danger, receive lit-
tle or no attention because the importance
of prioritising effort is not recognised in the
technologists' community. Similarly indi-
vidual culture heritage professionals strug-
gle to find the best technical solutions to
their requirements because there are all too
few sources of professional advice of which
they are aware. Consequently energy is lost
or disbelief in the potential of technology
sets in, at the same time, effort is duplicat-
ed and, often, digitised data sets are not suit-
ed to the longer-term objectives for which
they were intended. However, it would be
unforgivable to simply reject new tools just
because they are still costly, difficult to use,
and do not match current working practice.
Moreover, scientists working in the digital
fields are eager to help heritage professionals
to apply their research, because the problems
cultural heritage is actually facing are often
not encountered in other fields. This fact
can open doors on new fields of research for
both communities.
`Our overall objective is to bring
together the combined expertise
and resources of technologists,
heritage administrators, heritage
professionals and communication
experts concerned with the effec-
tive and sustainable application
of digital technology to archaeo-
logical research and cultural heri-
tage presentation at museums,
monuments and historic sites.'
A virtual model of a medieval ivory artefact, used to create a new multimo-
dal visitor interface

EPOCH,

2004