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  • 4DHeritage team

Stakeholders and finding new ways of engaging with them

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Heritage has many stakeholders; professional and public; local, national and international; and across the generations. All need to have an understanding to value these assets which are so important for culture, identity and even the resilience of communities and countries. There is no simple way to communicate effectively with all stakeholders. Museum exhibits, books or films may go part of the way.

Her Excellency Dr. Rawya Saud Al-Busaidi, Omani Minister of Higher Education explores an Augmented Reality Model of Stonetown, Zanzibar, site of a major heritage conservation programme supported by the Sultanate of Oman.

Why is the investment in communications so important?

Heritage assets such as manuscripts, buildings, music or even the landscape need to be understood in order to be properly appreciated. If understood and appreciated, they are more likely to be cared for. Understanding heritage often requires it to be understood from within a broader historical, social, or geographical context. That is something we can bring alive with new approaches to showcasing exhibits and communication such as Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality displays; re-imagining heritage stewardship.

This simple diagram that captures the key to community engagement and sustainable heritage stewardship.

Making heritage stewardship sustainable means engaging with both experts and the general public, at both a collective level and as individuals, so that there is support at the community level – and also at the national and international level.

We believe that digital content can ensure more meaning and richness to the way people encounter and experience the real world. We think the benefits are greatest when it comes endangered heritage be it because of an acute threat or chronic neglect due to isolation or even encroachment.

The virtual experience through the Google Polytour allows data—labels, images, sound effects or videos to be connected to the immersive scenes in fluid and compelling ways.

The Augmented Reality models allows a table-top to become a dynamic model of the site or landscape which can be explored collectively, bringing different stakeholders together. Viewers using their smart phone or tablet can engage with the digital scene from any angle, and walk around it.

Sophie Sarin enjoying and exploring the Google Polytour of Djenné at the Bamako exhibition.

In Mali, this approach has given community members like Mahamadou Diarra the tools with which to reach out to Ministers in central Government for support. During this project the 4D documentation Djenne led to discussions with the Minister for Heritage in terms of ‘safeguarding the country’s patrimony’, recognising its iconic importance in terms of Mali’s identity abroad as well as to the local communities. Most of Mali’s sites listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites are in places affected by insurgency.

We also had discussions with the Minister for tourism about the value of virtual tourism to complement and sustain traditional tourism when the crucial tourist industry has all but dried up. A virtual experience of key sites not only keeps them on the tourist map, but can help the tourist industry pick up more quickly once stability and peace have been re-established.

Using new technologies we can leave the traditional didactic approach behind in favour of more interactive and engaging experiences

The discussions with the Minister for Education ranged from the relevance of the digital techniques to vocational training and C21 skills; as well as creating an immersive educational experience for young people - potentially in the country, but also worldwide. Teachers and students use mobile devices and VR viewers to explore places from their classroom. A Google Expedition of Djenne is being produced and already more than 10 million children around the world have experienced similar tours.

This is a whole new field and opening up new kinds of human-digital interaction and we are keen to explore the potential benefits with anyone interested in improving heritage stewardship.

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