Hampson Museum: Digital Curation, Digital Reconstruction

One of the critiques of traditional archaeological VR is that the decision making process underlying the images is often not transparent.  A notable exception is the Hampson Museum in Wilson, Arkansas. Indeed, they are soliciting comments on their reconstruction:

In this section of the Virtual Hampson Museum you will find a series of images that have been created using the latest computer visualization techniques. The goal of the images is to give you a better sense of what the site might have looked like some 500 years ago. We can never be certain how the village appeared but we have pulled together information from archaeological investigation, traditional sources and historical records. Top down view of the 3D Upper Nodena Village

Please be sure and explore the 3D Visualization FAQ section for more information on how the details of the visualizations were determined.

We hope that these images increase your interest and curiosity about this location and the people of Nodena – who may have been the ancestors of the modern Quapaw. Our ideal goal would be to create an image, that if given to a Nodena Villager would have them say “yes — that is what it looked like.” Of course this goal is impossible but it is an ideal that we keep in mind. Nodena was the home for many people and we hope that these images can begin to provide a sense of the richness and complexity of their lives and engage your interest to learn more about the creators of the amazing objects in the Virtual Hampson Museum.

Please note: These images are the result of a first phase in the work and will be expanded and improved during the next phase from June 2008 to July 2009. We will be adding considerably more “detail” to the images in this process. We invite your suggestions and comments on the current versions.

This is fantastic work. I’ve been trying to develop a completely on-line intro-to-archaeology course, and the Hampson Museum site is definately going to feature!! What’s more, using point-data generated from laser-scanning, 3d models of artefacts are also available for study and download from the site (in a variety of formats).  This neatly solves one problem for my online students, of how do you make online teaching hands-on?

More on this site later when I get down to business exploring it…  (thanks Fred!)

(one thing I’d really like to see in archaeological VR in general: people. dogs. garbage. In my neighbourhood here in Canada, your house just isn’t complete unless you have an abandoned car in the front driveway. I’d like to see the ancient equivalents in these models. This is where game-rendered VR, whether in Second Life or using the Unreal Engine or whatever other system, could really improve the experience of these ancient reconstituted spaces. Over on the Roma Reborn project website, they write: “When, as is generally the case, evidence is completely lacking, the following features have been omitted from the model: interiors of buildings; furniture; statues….. It goes without saying that the human beings, animals, movable objects, etc. present in the city at the time modeled have also been omitted owing to a complete lack of evidence.” No evidence of people eh? What’s the point of archaeology then… That’s why game-rendered VR will, in the long run, trump static VR: the ability to inject life back into these reconstructions. If there is anything at all to the notion that built space has a material effect on the way life is lived within those spaces, then even modern interactions (avatars) within those spaces will generate patterns of interaction that are relevant to understanding ancient life.)