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Other Eyes: Understanding the past through bioarchaeology and digital media

Posted on 17 January 2021

Colleen Morgan Awarded AHRC funding for cutting-edge research

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We are pleased to report that Colleen Morgan (PI), Michelle Alexander (Co-I) and Guy Schofield (TFTi, Co-I) have been awarded an AHRC research grant for the project Other Eyes: Understanding the past through bioarchaeology and digital media. The aim of the project is to better understand the experiences of past people using virtual embodiment and immersive technologies, and to then communicate this understanding to others.

The Other Eyes project confronts an emerging issue within archaeology: that of interpreting past people using digital technology. For over 350 years scientists have sought to recreate the worlds inhabited by our human ancestors using drawings, models and dioramas. Using 21st century digital technology, we can now use DNA recovered from skeletal remains to make 3D digital avatars of past people. But what benefits might this bring and what questions does it raise? How do we digitally reconstruct past people and does the authenticity matter? Does the ability to digitally embody a past person of a different age, sex, or with a disability change the way we think about the past? Are there significant differences between traditional 2D illustrations, museum models, and 3D avatars in the representation and understanding of past people? What are the ethics of "resurrecting" past people based on bioarchaeological evidence and can (and should) reconstructions of past people be archived to encourage their creative reuse?

The Other Eyes project will allow people to explore the diversity of the past through digital immersive technology, namely an augmented reality experience (XR) at the Yorkshire Museum. Project partners York Museums Trust have a strategic aim to develop digital engagement. You can read more about the project and its planned outcomes on the project website: http://other-eyes.org

This project is developed in collaboration with York SME BetaJester, York Museums Trust, the Archaeology Data Service and Dr Stuart Eve (Bournemouth University; L-P Archaeology). The project advisors include Professor Maureen Carroll, Malin Holst, and Dr Stuart Jeffrey (Glasgow School of Art).