Immersive Media and the Preservation of Historical Experience
In recent years, immersive media have opened up new possibilities for the preservation of cultural heritage. Using Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Virtuality (AV), and Mixed Reality (MxR), cultural organizations around the globe are now transporting audiences to endangered world heritage sites and generating 3D representations of those sites in the audience’s physical environment. Largely untapped, however, is the unique potential of immersive media to preserve the historical experience of these spaces – that is, how people moved through them and assigned them meaning, where they went and why, and what they saw, felt, and heard – which can be as integral to a community’s cultural heritage as its material objects. The following article explores this use of immersive technology through an account of the author’s digital art history and cultural preservation project, Virtual Venice. Renewing the connection between present-day Venice and its rich urban past, the VR/360-video resource enables remote audiences to simulate the historical experience of the city while reaffirming its place in contemporary Venetian life.