Digital Humanities involving people and museums

Kenderdine, S. (2016). Embodiment, entanglement and immersion in digital cultural heritage. In S. Schreibman, Siemens, & Unsworth (Eds.), A new companion to digital humanities (pp. 22-41). Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA, USA: John Wiley & Sons.

In the first Companion to Digital Humanities (2004), there was a chapter entitled “Art history”, by Michael Greenhalgh, who approached the use of Digital Humanities in the museum. Also Carole L. Palmer spoke about museums in the chapter “Thematic research collections”, as well as other scattered references.

In the A new companion to digital humanities (2016), the reference to museums comes from Sarah Kenderdine in the chapter “Embodiment, entanglement and immersion in digital cultural heritage” (pp. 22-41). Sarah Kenderdine is professor at the National Institute for Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales, where she leads the Laboratory for Innovation in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum, director of research at the Applied Laboratory for Interactive Visualization and Embodiment at City University of Hong Kong, and also leads the Special Projects at Museum Victoria, Australia (see O despertar da era da experiência, segundo Sarah Kenderdine: museus e humanidades digitais). Kenderdine (2016) examines immersive and interactive visualization environments (IIVE), which “support embodiment for cultural heritage interpretation in museums” (p. 23). Considering that “the humanities increasingly embrace digital tools, visualization, and interaction as the primary modes of communication” (Kenderdine, 2016, p. 23), also the emerging technologies has implications in museums, which become increasingly performative.

“Emerging technologies that encourage kinaesthetic embodiment are simultaneously accompanied by shifts in critical theory that emphasize performance, distributed experience, and the materiality of the digital.  These further break down dualisms of action | reaction and virtual | real.” (Kenderdine, 2016, p. 23)

This implies a new relationship between the museum and its publics. To the audiences growing heterogeneity and dynamism, museums are impelled to answer with innovative strategies, combining immersive experiences with its traditional role of cultural heritage exhibition and its commitment to knowledge construction.

Kenderdine analyses immersive applications in cultural heritage visualisation, namely, those concerning the reformulation of digital cultural archives (CloudBrowsing (2008-2009), Ecloud WW1 (2012), mARChive (2014)) and, above all, the representation of tangible and intangible heritage, such as panoramic immersion (Be now here (1994), Place-Hampi (2006)) and embodiment visualization and machine-body entanglement (Pure Landand: Inside the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang (2012), Pure Land augmented reality edition (2012)).


Pure Land : Augmented Reality Edition (Pure Land AR)
Sarah Kenderdine, Jeffrey Shaw, Leith Chan
Dunhuang Academy and University of Hong Kong

Evaluating this projects, Kenderdine (2016) confirm that “the museum’s emphasis on the quality of their collections and scholarly frameworks has involved to include visitors framed by these qualities” (p. 36), but advert to the gap of evaluation, presenting I Sho U, a new research tool. “I Sho U encapsulates the fundamental role of visitor evaluation and evolving social research to impact and improve the design, delivery, and dissemination of the museum – actual and virtual” (Kenderdine, 2016, p. 23) which allows to understand the visitors’ perspective and involvement.

As Kenderdine concludes: “Understanding the fundamental nature of embodied experience will put humanities scholars, and museum curators and designers at the forefront of articulating and defining meaning in an increasingly ubiquitous screen culture” (Kenderdine, 2016, p. 23). Museums seem to be a brave new world. To those who think that all of this may confuse the perception of cultural heritage authenticity, it is clear that it is up to the museum to find the balance between the real object in exhibition and its virtual manipulation and augmented reality, and use these to capture attention of the new audiences for to the heritage intrinsic qualities of temporality, veracity and materiality.

Schreibman, S., Siemens, R. G., & Unsworth, J. (Eds.). (2004). A companion to digital humanities. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Pub.
Schreibman, S., Siemens, R. G., & Unsworth, J. (Eds.). (2016). A new companion to digital humanities. Chichester, West Sussex, UK ; Malden, MA, USA : John Wiley & Sons.

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Cite this article as: Roque, Maria Isabel, "Digital Humanities involving people and museums," in , 2016/04/08,

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