New Journal Article on Geospatial Semantic Web

The amount of digital cultural heritage data produced by cultural heritage institutions is growing rapidly. Digital cultural heritage repositories have therefore become an efficient and effective way to disseminate and exploit digital cultural heritage data. However, many digital cultural heritage repositories worldwide share technical challenges such as data integration and interoperability among national and regional digital cultural heritage repositories. The result is dispersed and poorly-linked cultured heritage data, backed by non-standardized search interfaces, which thwart users’ attempts to contextualize information from distributed repositories. A recently introduced geospatial semantic web is being adopted by a great many new and existing digital cultural heritage repositories to overcome these challenges. However, no one has yet conducted a conceptual survey of the geospatial semantic web concepts for a cultural heritage audience. A conceptual survey of these concepts pertinent to the cultural heritage field is, therefore, needed. Such a survey equips cultural heritage professionals and practitioners with an overview of all the necessary tools, and free and open source semantic web and geospatial semantic web platforms that can be used to implement geospatial semantic web-based cultural heritage repositories. Hence, this article surveys the state-of-the-art geospatial semantic web concepts, which are pertinent to the cultural heritage field. It then proposes a framework to turn geospatial cultural heritage data into machine-readable and processable resource description framework (RDF) data to use in the geospatial semantic web, with a case study to demonstrate its applicability. Furthermore, it outlines key free and open source semantic web and geospatial semantic platforms for cultural heritage institutions. In addition, it examines leading cultural heritage projects employing the geospatial semantic web. Finally, the article discusses attributes of the geospatial semantic web that require more attention, that can result in generating new ideas and research questions for both the geospatial semantic web and cultural heritage fields.

Sustainability of 3D models-the hidden criticism

I mentioned last month Hafizur and I had an open access journal article out, “3D Digital Heritage Models as Sustainable Scholarly Resources” at MDPI Sustainability journal.

Champion, E.; Rahaman, H. 3D Digital Heritage Models as Sustainable Scholarly Resources. Sustainability 2019, 11, 2425.

We were invited at very short notice to write this article, with a strict word limit, but a month before the invitation we had an earlier, sort of similar article reviewed very critically (apparently) by the first reviewer of another journal. Rather than wait for review 2 we pulled that article. So this article was built on the ruins of that article. However I never saw the reviewer 1 comments!

I write this as this article has been very well received (and downloaded) so far (well in 3 or so weeks). If there are negative comments out there I am happy to hear them. The article was merely to document what was missing from virtual heritage conference papers and direct access to 3D models, it was not meant to say there are no major 3D repositories or to blame conferences for not having many links to 3D contents. Rather it was meant to say, here is the data, you can cite or use it if you like (from the MDPI website), improve or critique it, but let us next try to solve these problems.


3D Digital Heritage Models as Sustainable Scholarly Resources

Dr Hafizur Rahaman and I just had an open access article published (online)  “3D Digital Heritage Models as Sustainable Scholarly Resources” in MDPI Sustainability in a Special Issue.


If virtual heritage is the application of virtual reality to cultural heritage, then one might assume that virtual heritage (and 3D digital heritage in general) successfully communicates the need to preserve the cultural significance of physical artefacts and intangible heritage. However, digital heritage models are seldom seen outside of conference presentations, one-off museum exhibitions, or digital reconstructions used in films and television programs. To understand why, we surveyed 1483 digital heritage papers published in 14 recent proceedings. Only 264 explicitly mentioned 3D models and related assets; 19 contained links, but none of these links worked. This is clearly not sustainable, neither for scholarly activity nor as a way to engage the public in heritage preservation. To encourage more sustainable research practices, 3D models must be actively promoted as scholarly resources. In this paper, we also recommend ways researchers could better sustain these 3D models and assets both as digital cultural artefacts and as tools to help the public explore the vital but often overlooked relationship between built heritage and the natural world.

Which comes first, the 3D scanner or the golden egg?

Technology Versus Culture, a false dichotomy?

I was indirectly asked at the Humanities, Arts and Culture Data Summit and DARIAH Beyond Europe workshop, 27-29 March 2019, Canberra, whether the most important question /priority/importance was Technology or Culture.

Now a day and an Australian State later, I may have slightly misinterpreted the question or the intention behind it but I thought I would answer here because

  • I may write about it later
  • I will forget it and maybe it raises an important point or two.

I have fairly specific ideas of culture and cultural heritage and technology.

  • For technology I believe it is not just manufacturing things, but also the questions, art and craft of bringing things into existence. And here I must admit to being inspired by Martin Heidegger, a problematic philosopher.
  • For culture I believe it is not just the creation of cultural values, objects, events, beliefs, stories, songs etc but the passing down of these objects stories etc to future generations AND passing down the general instructions and meanings and methods to help keep active the knowledge behind transmitting and modifying these cultural objects, both tangible and intangible.

And what does technology do? It helps the passing down and preservation of these cultural objects and non-objects. I don’t separate technology and culture, because culture needs to control the art of production, of bringing things into existence and keeping them there. When culture becomes consumer production but the production is not part of the cultural life cycle of creator and community, that is where culture weakens, and we could blame that on technology, but that is because we have started thinking of technology as an impartial, neutral, scientific way things have to be. Where tangible heritage or intangible heritage is created by people and needs to be valued, preserved and appreciated by future people, technological factors are never impartial and purely scientific, because technology is there to serve people not machines.

Let me give you another example, when I talk of a digital scholarly ecosystem, digital humanities people understand what I mean, a programmer I spoke to could only think of ecosystem as supplying people with computers and other digital devices and ensuring they always had the latest model and the manufacturers could charge as much as possible to resolve for their shackled customer this perceived and designed obsolescence. That is not what I mean by a digital ecosystem because the users are continually charged with replacing and learning the device itself, they will have little time to actually build, value, communicate and preserve something.

Now I do worry that we increasingly see technology as meaning digital technology, and there are commercial and academic reasons to focus on the equipmental, because funding is more straightforward and goes through fewer people who can raise their careers and profiles. Culture does not have to employ digital technology, and we straitjacket and possibly impoverish it if we continue to think of data as only digital (data predates digital) and technology as only digital (again, techne is a concept from Ancient Greece).

However, they don’t generally make these objects and they don’t generally ensure these objects and non-objects are maintained and used. And this, I think, is a problem for digital humanities, we have few ways to value these people and the work they do and the communities they serve.

And in our session yesterday a professor said there should be a Centre of Excellence in Digital Cultural Heritage in Australia. The audience reaction was highly favorable then and in the tweets afterwards. And someone like me should surely agree, right? I have been writing and designing and teaching about digital cultural heritage for two decades. Well yes and no. I believe it should happen and come from the GLAM sector and indigenous and other local communities, because they are the best guardians and trustees.*

A Centre of Excellence will raise the profile and increase the collaboration potential of academics and academic groups, but it also implies if you are not in a Centre of Excellence you are not excellent. Is that what digital heritage should support? I think it should be bigger: a National  Collaborative Research Infrastructure, or equivalent, supported and driven by the GLAM sector, perhaps helped in focus by academics. Once you have your NCRIs, build your Centre of Excellence around that. Because a Centre of Excellence of digital cultural heritage would and should be huge, it may be better to have smaller and more directed Centres of Excellence. Are there not enough humanities academics in Australia to apply for more than one?

* I see humanities as being larger than humanities academics and researchers. I believe it also includes the creators, the preservers and the audience. At humanities research infrastructure meetings we are asked what we want, but surely this is tied to the problem of what is best for Australian humanities, creators and communities?

NB thus blogpost has been modified, just to stick to the topic and will be modified again when I think of a few more qualifying statements.

abstract for CDH 2018

Centre for Digital Heritage meeting 2018:
3D archives, (re)use and Knowledge production, Lund 18–20 June 2018

Our abstract:

Integrating 3d Models and GIS for Digital Cultural Heritage

Recent advances in technology have helped make the capture and modelling of 3D digital cultural objects increasingly affordable. Ever growing numbers of cultural institutions have been digitizing their digital artefacts and sites. Regards the availability of 3D geometric modelling methods and 3D file formats, there are hundreds to choose from. However, an extremely challenging task is to identify the most appropriate 3D geometric modelling method and file format for the specific purposes of digital cultural heritage. In order to overcome those challenges, this paper first summarizes the most-common 3D geometric modelling methods such as constructive solid geometry, non-uniform rational B-splines, triangle meshes, and discusses their advantages, disadvantages and their typical application in the digital cultural heritage domain. Second, various 3D file formats are systematically analysed and discussed, with particular reference to architecture, to archaeology and to heritage studies. Third, future possibilities of 3D file formats and their potential for linking with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geospatial databases are outlined. What are the successful exemplars but also major challenges for linking GIS, 3D models and heritage aims? Where do these modelling methods, formats, aims and disciplines converge or diverge? Would such combinations create major problems for archives?

Keywords: 3D geometric modelling, 3D file formats, 3D archives, digital cultural heritage

Ikrom Nishanbaev, Erik Champion, Hafizur Rahaman, Mafkereseb Bekele

Digital Humanities Research Infrastructures in Australia

Thanks to Curtin’s Faculty of Humanities and Computational Institute I attended the Australian Academy of Humanities 2 day Humanities Arts and Culture Data Summit, 14-15 March, hosted by the AHA at the National Film and Sound Archive (NSFA), Canberra.

The below is from a brief report but may be of interest to those who’d like a quick guide to what is happening regards digital humanities research infrastructures at a National level in Australia.


Quick guide to social sciences/sciences platforms and RIs

  • Dr John La Salle, Director, Atlas of Living Australia biodiversity data
  • Dr Merran Smith, Chief Executive, Population Health Research Network
  • Andrew Gilbert, General Manager, Bioplatforms
  • Professor Bert Roberts, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, 1 year into Centre of Excellence  “Now is the time to tell a culturally inclusive, globally significant human and environmental history of Australia. We like to call it, Australia’s Epic Story. The ARC Centre of Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH) will undertake research that will safeguard our national heritage, transform research culture, connect with communities and inform policy.”


  • Professor Linda Barwick FAHA, University of Sydney – PARADISEC has funding issues but well respected, may require more computing to scale. “PARADISEC (the Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures) is a digital archive of records of some of the many small cultures and languages of the world”
  • Professor Julian Meyrick, Flinders University – AusStage “AusStage provides an accessible online resource for researching live performance in Australia. Development is led by a consortium of universities, government agencies, industry organisations and collecting institutions with funding from the Australian Research Council and other sources.”
  • Professor Mark Finnane FASSA FAHA, Griffith University – Prosecution Project “The criminal trial is the core of the Australian criminal justice system. It is the product of police investigation and its outcomes include the sentences of imprisonment that populate our prisons.” It is an impressive historical database. Overseas law researchers and historians (UK etc.) use it because it is better than theirs, apparently.
  • Alexis Tindall, Research Engagement Specialist – Humanities and Social Sciences Data Enhanced Virtual Lab (HASS DEVL “Humanities, Arts and Social Science researchers will get access to cutting-edge online tools and services thanks to $1.1 million in new funds for a collaborative virtual laboratory project. The Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) Data Enhanced Virtual Lab (DEVL) will bring together fragmented data, tools and services into a shared workspace.”

Others included (but there were more)

  • Adam Bell (very good talk on problems funding and running archives), Canberra. “The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is a world-renowned research, collections and publishing organisation. We promote knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, traditions, languages and stories, past and present.”
  • Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian, Australian National University, showed the library books destroyed by flood, said to applause that infrastructure included people.
  • Alison Dellit, Assistant Director-General, National Collections Access, National Library of Australia. Discussed the National Library’s Trove “Find and get over 569,383,366 Australian and online resources: books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more”)
  • Professor Rachel Fensham, Chief Investigator Social and Cultural Informatics Platform, University of Melbourne “SCIP responds to current demand and future growth in the digital humanities, arts, and social sciences by providing the necessary informatics skills and technology platforms to support researchers, research students and strategic research activities.”