First Day: The ViA 2009

I have been in Southampton, UK for the last 24-odd hours on a whirlwind journey to the Visualisation in Archaeology Conference and it’s better than ever this year! There are fewer presentations and lots of discussion time, a model that is really productive at these small workshop/conferences.  I still have a bit of work to do on my powerpoint (I had to change some things to better address issues that came up in the discussions today), but I wanted to jot down a few impressions while they are still fresh.

Marble head of statue found at Portus

There were six presentations today, split into two morning and afternoon sessions. Matthew Johnson was the chair of the first session, “Toward A Virtual Archaeology?” and the presentations were surprisingly diverse. Graeme Earl and Gareth Beale presented their research at Portus, which has apparently been in the news a lot recently. They have a lot of high-tech gadgetry–you can see a sample here, on their flickr stream.

Reconstruction of Wayland's Smithy Barrow by Jennie Anderson

Jennie Anderson presented a much smaller project, both literally and figuratively–an interactive version of Wayland’s Smithy Long Barrow accessible by cell phone. Long-time readers of this blog will know why I’m so delighted that someone has taken this project and really run with it. Jennie also graduated from Swindon’s Archaeological Illustration MA program and shoots with a for real bow and arrow! I was happy to meet her and sad that she had to leave early.

Jesse W. Stephens ridiculously gorgeous photography

Jesse W. Stephen's ridiculously gorgeous photography

I shouldn’t really say too much about Jesse Stephen’s presentation, as we worked together on Kalaupapa and have the stories to prove it! It was great to see him again though and though he didn’t present any of his photography, we heard about his close encounter with Hawaiian public television.

We had a nice lunch and everyone chatted about the various papers and their impressions so far of the conference. People seemed really engaged and happy to be there–so far so good! The second session was titled “The Role of Pedagogy and Enskilling in Visual Practice,” chaired by Stephanie Moser.

Tim Webmoor’s paper, Archaeology’s Media Economy: means of visualization or visual fetishism was excellent, as usual. I was sad that I wasn’t able to chat with him before he left. I wish him well at Oxford–he seems to be thriving.

Digital Saints, by Chrysanthos Voutounos

Digital Saints, by Chrysanthos Voutounos

Chrysanthos Voutounos‘ paper on Byzantine art and presentation in museums was a little hard to follow.  He was describing some really interesting bits about the construction of icons and showed the spatial relationships between the standardized facial features of representations of Byzantine-era Jesus Christ. As he was describing it, I looked around the room and noticed that most of the illustrators present at the conference (there are quite a few!) were drawing the Jesus face, almost reflexively. I loved it.

Rob Reads drawing of a bone comb.

Rob Read's drawing of a bone comb.

Finally, Rob Read and Graham Smith gave their remarkable paper, “Training the undervalued and unacknowledged: Specialist training provision for archaeological illustrators in the UK.” It was a statement on the profession of archaeological illustration and just what we have been losing over the years as the number of illustrators dwindles. They showed some really beautiful reconstructions and made great points about the relationship between the site artist and the archaeologist. Really fascinating commentary from craftspeople who tend to get overlooked in their importance as active interpreters of the archaeology.

I should get back to that powerpoint, but I hope to update again tomorrow about the second day of the conference. I hope my paper goes well!

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