Culture in Crisis and Digital Reproduction at the V&A

While following the issue of digital documentation, reproduction and in particular its use to record at risk cultural heritage I was very interested to attend a conference and workshop event at the V&A in early December, which discussed the uses of digital reproduction in heritage protection.  The workshop was part of the museum’s Culture in Crisis programme.  Speakers included Dr Stefan Simon of the Global Heritage Initiatives at the Yale Institute for the Preservation for Cultural Heritage, and Robert Bewley, of Oxford University’s EAMENA (Endangered Archaeology of the Middle East and North Africa) project, which seeks to digitally map the archaeology of the region.

The event followed on from the announcement of the agreement, on Friday 8th December at the museum, on a new protocol for the promotion and dissemination of works of art and culture in the digital sphere.  Over 2017, the V&A had been working with partner institutions around the world, notably Factum Arte (creators of, among other things, the reconstruction of the tomb of Tutankhamun) and the Peri Foundation, to write a new convention concerning digital reproductions.  The enterprise is entitled ReACH (Reproductions of Art and Cultural Heritage).  The twin goals of the declaration are to share best practice concerning the production, storage and dissemination of digital and physical reproductions, and to address the role of museums and other organisations in the reproduction of works of art and cultural heritage.

The V&A has had a historic role to play in the field of the ethics and dissemination of reproductions and recorded objects since 1867 when its founding director Henry Cole released the ‘Convention for Promoting Universally Reproductions of Works of Art for the Benefits of Museums of All Countries’. Cole’s declaration was created as a response to the rise of the then new technologies of reproduction– plaster casting, electrotyping and photography – which allowed artefacts to be recorded and reproduced more accurately and efficiently than ever before.  As such it is particularly appropriate that the V&A was at the forefront of updating this protocol, which still retains much of the spirit of Cole’s original.

Linked below are details of the workshop and conference,

https://www.vam.ac.uk/event/No8aMBDk/culture-in-crisis-practical-uses-of-digital-reproduction-in-heritage-preservation

an introduction to the ReACH convention,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=6Lwpjst6C5E

and an article on digital reproductions

Why it’s time to talk seriously about digital reproductions