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`Last year I launched a big project with
Jean-Marie Besnier and Michel Florenzano,
called 3D Monuments. It presents three-
dimensional reconstructions of monuments
throughout the world using the 3D Virtools
plugin for display. The site also includes the
methodology of the construction process
including descriptions and images of the
different techniques used ­ photomodelling
and 3D scanning to produce point clouds.
The tools used within sites such as this
offer a new means of visiting world her-
itage. For example, a section of the site is
devoted to le théâtre romain d`Arles, which
it is possible to view as augmented reality
through a VR helmet. This is currently lim-
ited to the accessibility of the hardware, but
will have many uses in the future when the
technology has become more widespread.
Of course, the digital models must be cre-
ated first! It is important to this project that
we present only the reality of the research
into each site, with no speculation.
The change in use of 3D technologies
is very important to note. These mod-
els are created by architects using a "digital
maquette", not engineers with a tool such
as AutoCAD. It can be seen that a digital
model can be created from primary sources,
and the database behind the model contains
information on all parts of the building as
described by an expert: an architect or an
archaeologist. This is an excellent method
for preserving the scientific basis of these
presentations. Not enough 3D reconstruc-
tions are exact, and the facility to place an
object or portion of the whole back into its
original context, and the simultaneous pres-
entation of the science behind these dis-
coveries is one of the most important issues
which will shape the future of this subject.
Through projects such as 3D Monuments we
can present expert knowledge to the pub-
lic in a highly accessible way. 3D models aid
investigative understanding, but they must
have an editorial context. We publish these
data and visualisations as a product allowing
offline access to this high-quality knowl-
edge and design. As some of the 3D visu-
alisation tools are still not ergonomic and
smooth enough, offline access is an advan-
tage. Web sites and products such as this,
while still having a little room for improve-
ment in terms of usability, retain the full
integrity of the data with the interpreta-
tions and explanations of experts in the
subject. Information is presented in order
to show the multiple layers of scientific and
cultural research that is being undertak-
en. At the Ministry of Culture, we are very
proud of our role in supporting this work
and ensuring it reaches a wider audience.'
he integration of cultural heritage
with the science of its discovery and
investigation is a theme throughout the
Web sites being produced by projects under
the Ministry of Culture. The five Web sites
described show the attention being paid to
accuracy, detail, and the interactive layer-
ing of information to provide users with
a product that is as relevant and personal-
ised as possible. These sites are not simply
authoritative information sources, but com-
prehensive learning tools. Science, tech-
nology and culture converge to provide
innovative access to fascinating heritage
information. The Ministère de la culture has
every right to be proud of its achievements.
Alain Maulny, Conservateur
du patrimoine, Chargé de mis-
sion à la mission de la recherche
et de la technologie
From his office in the heart of Paris,
Alain Maulny spoke to DigiCULT
about the Ministry of Culture's steps
to encourage digitisation of cultur-
al objects within France and some of
the progress made over the last ten
years. 2
In 1996, the Ministry of Culture in
France launched a digitisation plan, and
since that date we have digitised over 5
million documents. The basic principle
behind the plan is simple ­ credits are given
to museums, libraries, archives and other
heritage institutions to assist them in digi-
tising their collections. However, to do it
properly and to build up a coherent nation-
al policy, we must liaise with collections
of associations and foundations. Although
we do not give funds to large institutions
like the Louvre or BnF as they have their
own budgets, we provide financial assistance
to smaller public institutions and founda-
tions and we encourage the building of
relationships between all sizes of institu-
tion to maintain consistent and standard-
ised plans, indexes, and so on. Although the
documentation is not particularly central-
ised, the central policy stresses that we exist
to encourage high-quality standardised digi-
tisation across France, not to take over the
process entirely. The credits are distributed
over the whole of France, are representative
for each region, and the funding we offer is
often matched or exceeded at a regional or
local level.
ll projects can be accessed through
a single portal: Numérisation du pat
rimoine culturel (http://www.numerique. This site provides links to the
750 separate resources from 376 different
institutions, making as much of our digital
resources as possible available to the pub-
lic. The portal can be browsed by lists and
Alain Maulny



2 DigiCULT would like to extend warm thanks to the
translator who made this interview possible.