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Currently, I am the digital production manager at CyArk working with a team of curators, technology experts, and developers to digitally document and archive world heritage sites with an emphasis on at risk heritage. I am also a PhD candidate in “Digital Heritage” in the History of Art and Visual Culture department at UCSC and lecturer at MIT’s Global Architectural History Teaching Collaborative. Finally, I am a proud member of Women Who Code, UC Robotics Club, and Drinking about Museums. This blog is a collection of videos, images, and text relating to new technologies in a museum setting. I plan to experiment and practice what I am writing about and researching in hopes of gaining a better understanding of this emerging field.

High-tech Heritage Conference: Fenella France and The Declaration of Independence

In May of this year, I presented a section of my masters paper at the University of Massachusetts conference, “High-Tech Heritage.” The theme of  the conference was to examine how the past has long been studied through sequential chronology, geographical and spatial dimensions, and literary narrative. It was argued that in today’s world, the lenses of the digital technologies are disrupting this flow and instead focused on magnifying, enhancing, expanding, or even (as some argue), distorting the contemporary understandings of the past.

While, 3D visualizations, complex databases, interactive websites, social media, and Geographical Information Systems allow us to record, analyze, disseminate, map, and interpret information about cultural heritage, it has also led to a new means of envisioning past cultures, eras, and landscapes in a virtual, non-spatial, non-narrative immediacy.

During the course of the three day conference, there were countless fascinating papers given that addressed these very issues and questions. However, one lecture in particular struck me as not only using technology to magnify the past, but also to help gain a better understanding of it. The lecture was given by Fenella France, lead scientist for preservation at the Library of Congress. In her paper titled, “Advanced Digital Spectral Imaging Technologies: Rewriting, Reinterpreting, (Un)restricting the Cultural Past” she examined Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence.

She discovered through hyperspectral imaging in 2009, that Jefferson made an interesting word correction during his writing of the document. Jefferson originally had written the phrase “our fellow-subjects.” But he apparently changed his mind. Scribbled over the word “subjects” he instead wrote an alternative, the word “citizens,” (see above image).

The correction seems to illuminate an important moment for Jefferson and for a nation on the eve of breaking from monarchical rule: a moment when he reconsidered his choice of words and articulated the recognition that the people of the fledgling United States of America were no longer subjects of any nation, but citizens of an emerging democracy.

Hyperspectral imaging is the process of taking digital photos of an object using distinct portions of the visible and non-visible light spectrum, revealing what previously could not be seen by the human eye. This type of “detective” work could lead to a more in depth understanding of the minds behind these historical documents, to see the process as much as the final product

For more information, check out this awesome write-up from the Washington Post

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