Week 13 SCRAP Reading Group: Digital Archaeology

Eleven participants; four countries; two hours. Once again, a great conversation about an important topic. Thanks so much to Heather McKillop for providing our readings, summary, and discussion questions (see below).

Wakefield, C. (2020) Digital Public Archaeology at Must Farm: A Critical Assessment of Social Media Use for Archaeological Engagement. Internet Archaeology 55. https://doi.org/10.11141/ia.55.9

Wakefield discusses and evaluates the use of social media, in particular Facebook, in communicating field excavation information to the public during the Must Farm project in England, with well-preserved wooden posts and objects. Regular postings were critical to maintaining the digital audience, as well as postings by the same person who also excavated. Lack of funding for digital media after the excavations was an issue.

Khunti, Roshni (2018) The Problem with Printing Palmyra: Exploring the Ethics of Using 3D Printing Technology to Reconstruct Heritage. SDH, 2, 1, 1-12. DOI: 10.14434/sdh.v2i1.24590
The arch from a temple at Palmyra, which was destroyed in the war, was 3D printed at full-size from scans and exhibited in public in the USA and England. Khunti notes that the arch was out of context so poorly understood. He criticizes the project for failing to discuss the loss of human life and the destruction of cultural resources.

Mendoza, H. R. (2015) Museums and First Nations Explore 3D Printing as Mechanism for Artifact Repatriation. https://3dprint.com/104091/first-nations-repatriation/
In this web article, Mendoza discusses how the Smithsonian was able to provide 3D printed replicas of headdresses to the Tlingit who had lost many in fires. When used in ceremonies, the replicas became the masks according to the Tlingit. They later acquired 3D printers and make their own replicas.

Cook, Katherine, and Geneveive Hill (2019) Digital Heritage as Collaborative Process: Fostering Partnerships, Engagement and Inclusivity in Museums. SDH, 3, 1, 83-99. DOI: 10.14434/sdh.v3i1.25297
Cook and Hill describe and evaluate a project in which university students worked with museum collections and staff as well as descendant communities to create digital exhibits.The idea of “co-creating” exhibits with the public, descendants, and museum staff is fundamental in the projects. Problems include shortness of time, other commitments of museum staff, lack of institutional support by universities, and large time investment by faculty.

Discussion questions:
(1) For the Must Farm project, 2 people worked ½ time excavating and the rest creating and posting digital content to Facebook and a web site. Is this a good model? Other models?
(2) Khunti points out issues of lack of context and sensitivity in exhibiting 3D replicas of Palmyra. Are there better uses of 3D printed archaeology?
(3) What are our responsibilities in accuracy in 3D printing? Can 3D printing play a more active role in heritage?
(4) Cook and Hill provide a model of “co-creation,” but note many drawbacks. Is this a useful model for archaeologists and could you do this on your project?