Mood Boards: Eating

It has been a long time since I have updated. I completed my PhD at the beginning of December (2014), viva’d in February and finally had my corrections confirmed at the beginning of the month. Having spent a busy month somewhere in between working at Winchelsea (http://cma.soton.ac.uk/events/2015/04/winchelsea-medieval-port-project/) and Bucklers Hard (http://cma.soton.ac.uk/events/2015/04/shipwrightery-at-bucklers-hard/)

This post is going to discuss the first of a series of mood boards I created as a way of engaging with the 3d model of the private apartments at Bodiam as part of my PhD. The idea was that discussions (and critiques) surrounding archaeological visualisation have tried to engage with subjectivity and uncertainty in different ways. I suggest the presenting the representations of the past alongside some of the source images used to create them. Each of the boards I have created is themed around some element of medieval life or experience.

The board in this post relates to eating. Stock images from sites such as GettyImages tend to focus on people physically eating rather than things associated with that task.

Eating (7)

Eating (1)

Image sources:
Queen Elizabeth receiving the Dutch ambassadors. Painted between 1570-75 the artist is unknown. It is currently at Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany. (Jokinen 2008)
Luttrell Psalter Featuring the Lord at Dinner (Copyright 1989 The British Library Board)
(British Library, Royal MS 14 E III, f. 76v) (BritishLibrary 2014e)
(Royal MS 19 D II f. 273r)(BritishLibrary 2014g)
The Book of the Queen – Christine de Pizan in her study – by Master of the Cite Des Dames in 1410 (British Library, MS Harley 4431, f. 4r)
The Coronation Chair, Westminster Cathedral (BBCHistory 2014).
The Portable Antiquities Scheme/ The Trustees of the British Museum (TheBritishMuseum 2011b)
British Library Royal 14 E iii, miniature of King Arthur’s Court.

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Busy week (2) – Digital Heritage, External Engagement & Conservation workshop

Following our adventures at Knole I was back in Southampton for the night before heading off to a workshop organised by Dr. Kate Giles and Dr Gill Chitty, University of York. I was invited to present a 20 minute paper on the broad topic of my work using “digital heritage to present and enhance understanding of, and visitor experience at, heritage sites”. This sounded like an exciting but terrifying prospect and I wasn’t sure which element I should go for, the wonderful Kate Giles helped to clarify by stating that the workshop was interested in focussing on the potential and limitations of working with external partners. So in the end I decided to give an overview of my experience of a Collaborative Doctoral Award working with Trust.

The workshop took place at the Weald and Downland Museum, which I have visited many times over the course of my thesis. We were based in Crawley Hall, a beautiful a late 15th early 16th century first floor hall. Richard Harris gave a wonderful introduction to the building and the museum giving us a real insight to the workings of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum and their wishes to further peoples understanding of rural life and landscape.

The day was split into three broad sessions Issues and approaches, Techniques and applications and working with partners.

Kate Giles started the day by introducing her work at the Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon, I really enjoyed her honest approach with her first encountering of digital visualisation technologies, the wish to highlight exactly how it would have looked according to one’s own research. This overtime develops into a wish to display different interpretations or presentations of the data, allowing viewers to engage with as much material as possible. This was followed by Daniel Mutibwa presenting on the Pararchive project. He gave us an insight to some amazing datasets that they are hoping to make available and a methodology for creating useful digital resources. Starting with an idea or something that is needed and then finding the right digital tool for the job.

The second session on Techniques and Applications I found really engaging. I had met Sarah Duffy briefly on Jersey last summer, and was very interested to see her present on the use of multiple digital techniques and finding the best technique for each job as it comes. Her work on public engagement in Sudan was fascinating.

Although I have worked closely with Gareth Beale on other things (Seeing, Thinking, Doing) and heard him discuss the British Memorial project it was wonderful hearing him discuss the overall aims and direction the project is going in. The same with Jude Jones and Nicole Beale on the use of RTI towards visual presentation. It was lovely to see a much more detailed paper on their project particularly following a mini project Jude and I are pursuing on a similar vane.

The final session focussing on working with partners began with a presentation from Pat Gibbs from the Centre for Christianity & Culture at University of York. He presented some wonderful digital heritage applications. I found his ideals about creating something that aims to engage with a visitor before, during and after their visit, extending the interest and experience of the space. I was up next and I hope I highlighted how wonderfully rewarding working closely with a large organisation can be but also how frustrating it can be trying to find out who your research is for. This is something I wish to discuss more in the coming months. Finally Stuart Eve from LP Archaeology, gave a depressing but informing discussion on the issues of pursuing digital engagements when working on developer funded sites. He put it in no uncertain terms and there simply isn’t enough money in the budget for commercial companies to produce digital output with legislation as it stands. For this to change there needs to be a change in the law forcing developers to encourage public engagement with the results of archaeological investigation which will allow companies to include this in their budget. I am definitely not informed enough on this area of engagement but Lorna Richardson has just finished her thesis on Digital Public Archaeology which Stuart suggests discusses this in detail, i’m looking forward to seeing her present at Digital Heritage 2014 next week.

A number of these papers I have seen presented in various guises, or read papers in before. But being able to actually discuss the issues we all encounter was very engaging and lay the ground for lots of future projects. I feel the small number of participants allowed a really informed discussion on the wonderful opportunities for these techniques but also highlighted what limitations currently stand in the way of allowing them to develop. I hope the conversations continue.

The making of the Great Tower at Dover Castle

The Great Tower at Dover Castle was built by Henry II in the late 12th century. It is an English Heritage property. In 2009 the tower was reopened following a huge project to re-present the interiors.

The great tower, Dover Castle

Unlike most projects that focus on just a couple of rooms in a building at Dover they have furnished and decorated the building nearly in its entirety. To do this they have gone beyond reproductions of existing items of 12th century furniture and instead embraced a wide range of research processes to produce the results.

The aim of the project was to evoke the appearance and atmosphere of the interiors on the occasion of a major royal event in the 12th century. The team working on the project stems not just from heritage professionals but historians, designers, craftspeople and artists. Following a large body of research instead of producing copies of items the furnishings and fittings were created in the 12th century mindset of design and creation. In doing so the project embraces uncertainty and creativity in its envisioning of the 12th century.

I feel that this idea should be embraced in the creation of CGI images as well. Throughout my thesis I have been asked by medievalists to provide hard evidence for each decision I have made. Although this is necessary to give my work substance I feel we should be embracing subjectivity at the same time. We should be moving towards this type of research and engagement following the research of the hard evidence embracing the style and design concepts of the period instead of just trying to trace real items from the medieval period, which we already acknowledge as few and far between.

The results at Dover are stunning, personally I feel visiting them provides a feel for 12th century life in a way that cannot be accessed through empty rooms and partially decorated spaces.

Soot above the fireplace at Dover Castle

Soot above the fireplace at Dover Castle


More information about the project can be found here.

Buildings and the Body

At the end of June (27th and 28th to be precise) I am helping to organise a two day symposium exploring the built environment in the medieval and early modern period. Website with all the information is here http://buildingsandthebody.wordpress.com

This is just a quick post to say we have a fabulous line up of speakers, a beautiful venue lined up for the wine reception and a fascinating keynote. We want to encourage more attendies to register. When organising the sessions we decided to move away from the traditional series of papers followed by a keynote. Instead (broadly) each session is formed of 2 long papers and upto 2 short papers leading into a half hour roundtable discussion. The aim is to really try and discuss the subject matter in detail towards collaborative solutions and approaches.

Everyone is welcome no matter what background as we are also trying to work towards a fully collaborative approach, beyond discipline (archaeology, history, english), experience (we encourgae undergraduates) and beyond academic or commercial divides. We hope this is reflected in our program.

A bit of a self promotion, I will presenting a short paper on my acoustical work in the “New Approaches” session which if you are here I hope you would find interesting!

Multidisciplinarity

My PhD was conceived to bring together a range of different approaches and methodologies towards the study of late medieval buildings. It started as one of two PhDs myself based in archaeological computing and a second student with a background in medieval history. This intended to bring together digital visualisation techniques with a solid base in evidence sourced through archival research.

I have stated elsewhere how visualisation techniques have been highly critiqued and the methodology developed to work in an archaeological context. There are courses that can be sat on to teach the tools available and how they can be applied in archaeology. However, for Auralization this is not the case, there have been limited applications in archaeology and the technique still requires a deep understanding of acoustical engineering. Working with ISVR has been challenging, it took us a long time to find someone to work with who could teach me how to do acoustical survey and how it can be applied. Engineers work in different ways and focus on different things. In reverse they do not have the theoretical background in archaeology to engage with the results of the work.

Where I am going with this is that using techniques from other disciplines (even just history) can be incredibly challenging. It is not just finding the contacts and someone interested in working with you. It is knowing what techniques can be used and their limitations to apply them correctly. It is making sure you are asking the right questions when learning techniques to ensure you are getting the correct answers from your collaborators not just the easy answer.

However, I have found other aspects of multidisciplinary method more frustrating, particularly when presenting my work. These issues can be as simple as struggling with referencing; archival sources such as illuminated manuscripts are very difficult to reference using the Harvard system. I spoke to Prof. Chris Woolgar from history who said, that in essence, you have to “bodge” it. Not something that works well with bibliographic software. The same is true in engineering working to disciplinary standards, trying to find the best way of getting the information across feels impossible at times.

Presenting the results of sound work is also frustrating, rarely are conference venues setup with good quality audio, if any at all. I find it hard to reconcile myself to discussing the experience of sound without any audio accompaniment in the same way discussing visualisation without images seems ridiculous. This continues when writing my thesis, providing a mechanism for the sounds I am talking about to be heard.

I don’t mean for this blog post to be a rant, I was hoping instead to highlight some of the difficulties in working between disciplines for all multi-disciplinary research in general. As we are being encouraged to use methodologies from other disciplines, I hope the more this is embraced the easier it will get for some of these basic problems.

Palaeolithic Archaeology, Ice Age Island and Echoes

Huge thanks to Sam Griffiths for helping me write this blog and to Jon Whitmore for the photos.

I have just come back for a weekend visiting the Ice Age Island Project on Jersey. During this time I spent a lot of time discussing the experience of sound with early humans/ other hominid species something I know nothing about I hasten to add. However, the issues if somewhat larger in an earlier period are still prevalent in my medieval work and primarily stem from how we can approach the experience of sound for a group of people whose experience of life is so departed from our own.

La Cotte de St. Brelade

La Cotte de St. Brelade

In the Medieval period I have discussed how the world was a lot quieter in comparison to how it is today, meaning that smaller noises would be heard more clearly and would be related to in a different way. However, these issues are even larger in the Paleolithic, my understanding is that in pre-modern humans there is a huge discussion about when language began to form. From what I have discussed with people there is no defined date to confirm when speech became possible. I was even more curious to discover that although this debate raged no thought had been turned to the development of the ear and how hominids relate to sound.

This primarily came out of a discussion about various experiments with sound that I have discussed briefly in my previous post. A lot of prehistoric work in Archaeoacoustics discusses the ephemeral nature of sound specifically in relation to echoes. Without our modern understanding of how echoes work they are assumed have been understood as magical or work of the gods. However, as Reznikoff (2008) suggests in his discussion on resonance maybe it was considered a more useful tool for exploration than light and sound. He discusses the use of sound to explore caves, where light travels only over short distances sound can be projected forward and used as a guide to find shorter or longer passages.

Both discussions have both issues and positive suggestions.

Jon's position in the entrance to La Cotte

Jon’s position in the entrance to La Cotte

While on Jersey we clambered round to visit La Cotte de St. Brelade, the cave was very busy following a Jersey Heritage tour and instead we decided we would swim back and meet some of the other project members back on the main beach. Having swam out a short distance we saw our friends climbing up into the cave and thought it would be a good point to get a photo. Without much hope I shouted back up to them, my experiences with swimming and sailing has always suggested that sound does not project well. In fact I heard my voice echo back off the cliffs. My friend Jon Whitmore not only heard up but said he could hear us as clearly as if we were sat next to him. We could not hear him.

Swimming in the sea at La Cotte the red circle shows our position

Swimming in the sea at La Cotte the red circle shows our position

This acoustical phenomena might not have existed in the past, as with buildings landscapes change over time. Where we floating in the sea would have been dry land and this would have had an effect. Equally the erosion of local bedrock could have changed the acoustical properties of the headland. However, the water was only a couple of meters deep so our height was not too far out of reaching the site. A new suggestion is that this natural acoustical property could have been taken advantage of by those inhabiting the site. It could have been used as a signal for the approach of things or as a method of communication over a larger distance.

Either way it was a fascinating new way for me to experience the site and I can’t wait to get back there to go on a closer exploration.

Reznikoff, I. (2008). Sound resonance in prehistoric times: A study of Paleolithic painted caves and rocks. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 123(5), 4137–4141.

Acoustics and Ocularcentricism

At the end of my last post I commented that “It feels strange working visually to produce something that is going to be used to model noise”. Equally I find the same is true when reading articles discussing acoustics in the past when they use graphs and plans to illustrate acoustical features. I am taking this blog to explore some of my thoughts on acoustics and how it is visually explored. This is by no means a polished exploration just some thoughts I have had.

I know on some level I struggle to understand them as I’m not an engineer and don’t work so much with the mathematical modelling of acoustical spaces. However, I do wonder if this is more to do with the Ocularcentric approaches currently employed in archaeology to feel the need to make a graph to demonstrate our ideas. This quote from Devereux and Jahn (1996)“it is instinctively felt that sound is too immediate and ephemeral” highlights to me why we might feel the need to work in visual display. By discussing acoustics in terms of its visual display to some extent we are making our results more “scientific”. Having equally seen a hand clap described as “a single loud percussive noise” (Waller 1993) I feel we are trying to move beyond the more phenomenological areas of working in Archaeoacoustics.

My other concern is that we are imparting our interpretations of the past with a modern mindset. Most of the spaces being discussed are monuments or sites from prehistory would they have been understood in the same visual depictions that we are using to demonstrate the spread of sound?

Despite these thoughts I equally agree it is very hard to describe the results of this kind of work without graphs and plans to demonstrate clearly what we mean. As seen in my previous post I myself have to visually model a room to be able to acoustically model the space, this is how the technology has developed.

A lot of the work done in Archaeoacoustics has been trying to line up Acoustical phenomena with visual stimuli. The most obvious example is the large body of work undertaken on Rock Art sites these include but are in no means limited to the Radio 4 documentary NOISE, (Reznikoff 2008; Waller 1993; Scarre & Lawson 2006). Rock painting is not the only application other papers also link “impressive visual backdrop[‘s]” (Watson & Keating 1999) to acoustical interesting spaces or examine spaces both a visual and acoustical way to compare the results (Wozencroft & Devereux n.d.). These are all fascinating and I am generally intrigued whether the locations were chosen due to acoustical phenomena already present in the natural environment or whether the construction of a site was intended to produce acoustical affects. Today acoustical engineering forms a subject in its own right. This does not mean we can entirely predict the acoustical properties of a building; we cannot model in the same way we can the aesthetics. Buildings are still constructed with errors in the acoustics. For example this lecture theatre has had to have the acoustics adjusted (the fabric boards, an absorbing material, cover holes in the wall designed to scatter sound).

This leads me to believe that most acoustical properties related to monuments are accidental creations rather than created in the design. A modern example of this is the Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s cathedral (see Here for more details). Then potentially once discovered these properties are exploited or further explored in future constructions.
I presume that considering even now with knowledge of how acoustics can be manipulated we don’t always get it right that the latter idea wasn’t true.

Devereux, P. & Jahn, R.G., 1996. Preliminary investigations and cognitive considerations of the acoustical resonances of selected archaeological sites. Antiquity, 70, pp.665–6.

Reznikoff, I., 2008. Sound resonance in prehistoric times: A study of Paleolithic painted caves and rocks. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 123(5), pp.4137–4141.

Scarre, C. & Lawson, 2006. Archaeoacoustics, Cambridge: Oxbow Books.

Waller, S., 1993. Sound reflection as an explanation for the content and context of rock art. Rock Art Research, 10(2).

Watson, A. & Keating, D., 1999. Architecture and sound: an acoustical analysis of megalithic monuments in prehistoric Britain. Antiquity, 73, pp.325–36.

Wozencroft, J. & Devereux, P., Landscape-perception. Landscape & Perception project 2007-2012. Available at: http://www.landscape-perception.com/acoustic_mapping/ [Accessed July 11, 2013].

Acoustical modelling

Oriel Chamber at Ightham Mote photo courtesy of Tony Fordham

Oriel Chamber at Ightham Mote

Old Chapel at Ightham Mote photo courtesy of Tony Fordham

Old Chapel at Ightham Mote

Great Hall at Ightham Mote photo courtesy of Tony Fordham

Great Hall at Ightham Mote photo courtesy of Tony Fordham

About 2 months ago I set off for Ightham Mote in Kent to begin the data collection for my second digital project. Working with a team of PhD students from the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at Southampton our intention was to record the Impulse Response for three areas of the building: the Hall, the Old Chapel and the Oriel Room. This would be used to create a model of the building in CATT-Acoustic and to calculate values for clarity and intelligibility when we returned to Southampton.

The work was undertaken after the building was closed to the public as we needed each space to be empty and required a constant level of background noise. We used a lot of different bits of equipment as the ISVR students wanted to use the data for other things while I was very interested in modelling with it to compare the acoustical experiences of the space to the experience of medieval space from Visualisation. We used a microphone, Kemar (Binural microphone), omnidirectional speaker and Loud speaker to record the space in the Oriel chamber and the Old Chapel while in the Great hall we used a loud speaker but also used an omnidirectional microphone.

Kemar (binaural microphone), omnidirectional microphone, measurement microphone and microphone array and amplifier

Kemar (binaural microphone), omnidirectional microphone, measurement microphone and microphone array and amplifier

Omnidirectional amplifier and measurement microphone in Oriel Chamber

Omnidirectional amplifier and measurement microphone in Oriel Chamber

In each space we had two source positions to allow us to compare the experience of sound being produced from two different locations, and at least six receiver positions. It was my task to select *interesting* locations for these positions. They were selected based on different experiences of the space, so in the chapel I choose source and receiver positions related to whether you were performing a service or listening to the service. In the Oriel room positions close to and further away from the squint were selected. In the Great Hall I choose positions at the high status end of the room and the further down as well as a position that a musician would perform from.

We used a sin curve sound to record the impulse response (pink noise) which allows us to record most frequencies of sound that occur within nature.

After recording the acoustical properties of the room it was also necessary to undertake a basic measured survey of the room. This did not need to be as accurate as a building survey but did need to include different areas of materials to allow us to model the acoustical properties of the space. To do this I have been using CATT-Acoustic. It requires me to enter the dimensions of the room in terms of corners and planes created from coordinates.

CATT Acoustical coding

CATT Acoustical coding

I have really enjoyed getting use to this none graphical way of modelling. I am use to clicking, dragging and selecting which is very straight forward, so this was an entirely new experience. Although to begin with I didn’t find this method of coding easy once I got started and got my head around what measurements were needed and which extra corners I would need to define to be able to create planes it was speedy. Though as with any coding it required quite a bit of debugging. I also found, that as with pretty much any fieldwork, as soon as I got back I realised I needed to go back and take a load of new different measurements and take lots of photos. For this I have to give lots of credit to Camilla Rowe who came up for the day to give me a hand speeding the whole process up.

Chapel in the CATT 3d viewer

Chapel in the CATT 3d viewer

Oriel in CATT 3d viewer

Oriel in CATT 3d viewer

I’m really looking forward to getting on with the actual acoustics end of the work next. It feels strange working visually to produce something that is going to be used to model noise. These ideas are something I will be exploring further in my thesis.

Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior: Workshop 3

Through my supervisor Graeme I have become involved with the Ways of Seeing the English Domestic Interior, 1500-1700: the case of decorative textiles research network. I attended the first workshop in Southampton which introduced everyone to the network and began to explore how we can apply computing techniques to further explore how we might enhance our understanding of how the domestic interior was experienced in early modern England. (This might sound a bit familiar…)

On the 19th March I attended the third workshop. The aim of the day was to explore how eyetracking technology can be exploited towards the understanding of visitor experience of 17th century painted cloths at Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire.

Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire.

Owlpen Manor, Gloucestershire.

The day began with two groups of volunteers being “wired up” to the eyetracking hardware. The first thing to consider and why we can undertake this kind of experiment is that the eye does not work in the way we think it does. Eyes do not pan smoothly like in a film instead move in a series of small jerks. They actively only focus clearly on a very small area at the centre of the eye. The best way to think about it is that they essentially create lots of static images that focus on a small area. This means you are never too aware about exactly where you are looking and you can’t try and think too much about where your looking and don’t understand so the effect of wearing the headset is not to great.

Example of how someone is wired up the eyetracking equipment

Example of how someone is wired up the eyetracking equipment

How the eye captures information

How the eye captures information

The first of these groups was a group of undergraduate and masters students while the second comprised of *experts* from the research network. The intention was to explore the effects of expertise on the way people are viewing the interiors of the room and the effect of knowledge. Each person was individually wired up to the equipment and given time to get use to wearing it. Then they were taken to the Great Chamber (Queen Margaret’s Room) here their responses to the room were recorded a number of times. The first observation was recorded to observe the difference between the two groups of volunteers. Each individual was then provided with more information about the room and the wall painting and sent back into the room with the intention to observe which areas were focussed on in more detail or not.

Queen Margeret's Room

Queen Margeret’s Room

Some preliminary results saw a huge difference in the way an expert was looking at the room as opposed to the student they were compared with. Students tended to move their gaze to try and take in everything whereas the expert took much more time paying close attention to the painted cloths.

The day then turned to a series of talks by people involved with the project, firstly with an outline of the project to date. This was followed by a talk on Owlpen Manor and specifically the Painted Cloths displayed in the Queen Margaret room which we observed during the eyetracking experiment. The painted cloths are thought to be the only complete example of a decorative scene of interior decoration of this form the scene details the biblical story of Joseph. They were a cheaper substitute for tapestries before the introduction of wall papers and were produced by guilds until around 1502 and were considered out dated by the 17th century. Although no longer in situ they represent a complete scene and only are missing the bottom border when in the 1960s they were moved from a different bedroom during a cleaning at the same time. This move has been questioned as to whether the move would have affected the story at all? Whether areas of the border would have an effect or whether they are placed into a different order or were designed for the original space. The talk also touched on whether the effect of the cloth on walling affected the experience of the space if they had been painted with the same scenes with some discussion on the acoustical effects on the space.

This led into a discussion of the direction the research network wishes to go in. In September 12th and 13th there will be a conference presenting the results of the research network. The papers from the conference are to be published in a Textiles journal, should be consider publishing more widely? Especially considering the number of methods used. We discussed the achievements of the network so far. Feel that with a range of specialities have allowed an engagement with objects and spaces that has not been possible until now. Highlighted that there are different kinds of viewing and the type of space or display affects the interaction with the objects or textiles. Particularly in reference to this was the assessment of the critical eye. We do not just look with our eyes but want to manipulate the objects in the space they are in or change the lighting conditions. In reference to this context is very important to link the space and object when considering them in their historical context and how they were experience in the past. For example the lighting conditions at Owlpen Manor were very different and had a different effect on the viewers to examining objects at the Ashmolean. As such when we are considering the experience of an object we need to respond to how we think about the narrative associated with these objects or spaces.

Following the conference it was unanimous that the research network did not want to be downgraded but hoped it would continue in one way or another, maybe setting up a research project. Consider moving forward into looking more at how the computer techniques that have been demonstrated could further the work. There was a bit of a struggle considering whether we could apply them appropriately there is a lot of archaeological theory associated with how visualisation technology can be applied to explore these issues and whether we can examine the experience of those examining/ creating these items when they were created. Whereas the heritage professionals wished to apply the technologies as a technique for reverse designing for museums and engagement impact in schools. Consider more how people are engaging with objects today and allowing greater access to collections. Consider if these techniques can be used to track engagement with real vs. non real objects. With a focus from the Shakespeare Birthplace staff suggesting it would be interesting to examine audience perception of performance props costume etc.

I found it really interesting to engage with people who did not have such a background in computing and survey. They were very interested in engaging with new technologies in the same way as I am working in for my thesis but without the background understanding of visualisation and archaeological theory. Whereas I had not thought so much about the cultural heritage applications. It was a really interesting day and I am hoping to become more involved with the network over the coming months.