Participatory Design Conference 2018

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to inform you that my work, together with that of my CHEurope Colleagues, has been accepted at this year Participatory Design Conference (PDC2018) that is currently held in Hasselt (Belgium), as part of the Situated Actions exhibition. Our contribution is on display in the prestigious premises of Z33 – House for Contemporary Art, in The Politics of Design: Act 1 exhibition.

The PDC conference brings together scholars who present research on the direct involvement of people in design, development, implementation, and appropriation activities of information and communication technologies, spaces, artefacts, and services.

Working within our Work Packages – Heritage and Wellbeing, Curating the City, Participation and Management, Digital Heritage and Heritage Futures – the aim of our collaborative exhibition was to make the visitors reflect on a shared, central issue of our research. We worked around a direct question to the audience, accompanied by a metaphoric fable in order to stimulate a critical reflection and a possible answer.

Digital Heritage Work Package contribution to the exhibition reflects on the alleged accessibility of digital heritage and its consequences, using as a metaphor the famous Cinderella’s crystal slipper.

It will be possible to visit The Politics of Design: Act 1 exhibition from August 22nd to October 12th at Z33 House for Contemporary Art, Zuivelmarkt 33, 3500 Hasselt. More information is also available on Facebook.

CHEurope Summer School in Santiago de Compostela

Dear friends,

From June 23rd to July 1st I was in Santiago de Compostela, where I took part in the first CHEurope’s Summer School. The school has been organised by Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC/INCIPIT) and consisted in a series of seminars, practical fieldwork and visits, with the aim of approaching different contexts, ideas and critical perspectives on heritage.

A very important part of the school was dedicated to the ways of producing knowledge and to the methodologies for different investigations, in order to offer a support to our research work.

The School included also a field trip to A Pobra do Brollón, a small village South-East of Santiago de Compostela, where we discover the work of a community archaeology project called San Lorenzo. Accompanied by the archaeologists, we explore the Ribeira Sacra, a region famous for its century-long wine-producing tradition characterised by the terraced vineyards excavated on steep riverbanks of the river Sil. We first visited Vilachá de Salvadur and some of the hundred-year-old “bodegas”, the wine cellars in small buildings of stone. There we learn about the traditional wine production, the role it plays in the touristic development of the region and in the San Lorenzo project.

We then explore the archaeological site of the Hillfort, dating back to the I-II century A.D. The castrum was probably erected after the Roman conquest of the area, to host the workers active in the gold mines of the area.

Lastly, we visited Casa de Repil, a house used by guerrillas during Franco´s dictatorship. There, archaeological excavations were able to reconstruct the dynamics of a skirmish between the Guardia Civil and the four Republicans who were sheltered in the house in 1949.

Casa de Repil
Casa de Repil

CHEurope Summer School has been awarded the labelled of the “European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018” by the European Commission.



You can find more picture of the Summer School onCHEurope Instagram page. With this post I want to thank all those involved in the organisation of the event, they really made a magnificent job!

Cultural Institutions, Online Collections and Digital Media

Last week I attended the PhD course on Cultural Institutions, Online Collections and Digital Media organised by ACSIS (Advanced Cultural Studies Institutes of Sweden), Linköping University (campus Norrköping). 

The aim of this course was to provide a critical exploration of digital heritage and online collections. Thanks to the participation of several researchers in the field of digital heritage studies, the course investigated concepts and theories in regard to the relations between material collections and digitizations as well as the cultural, social, technological, economic and ecological ramifications of the presence of cultural institutions and online collections in global search engines and social media.

During the week I had the chance to discuss my project with several scholars, exchanging opinions on our work and receiving precious advice on how to tackle my research questions. I want to thank the organiser for having created such an interesting course and a welcoming environment for the discussion. It has been a tremendous experience!



CHEurope – Kick-off​ meeting

CHEurope kick-off meeting took place in Gothenburg from the 27th to the 30th June 2017. There, for the first time, I met all the ESR that are part of this project and their supervisors.

The aim of CHEurope project is to explore the processes by which heritage is ‘assembled’ in our society, by researching five contexts in which heritage is undergoing profound changes. Themes of the research are the implication of heritage in the development of our society (WP1 – Theorising heritage futures in Europe); the healing role of heritage institutions for the past, present and future development of the city (WP2 – Curating the city); the impact of digital cultural heritage on the society (WP3 – Digital heritage); the role of culture and heritage in people wellbeing (WP4 – Heritage and wellbeing); and finally, the processes involved in the generation, appropriation and use of heritage (WP5 – Heritage management and citizen participation in a multi-cultural world). I share WP3 – Digital Heritage with other three amazing colleagues.

The program included an introductory presentation of each ESR and the keynote lectures by the project’s coordinators and by the main supervisors of the five work packages. On June 29th we visited the UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric rock-art site of Tanum, under the guidance of Professor Kristian Kristiansen (UGOT) and Ulf Bertilsson (UGOT, Swedish Rock Art Research Archives).

Let’s Rock!

Tanum prehistoric​ rock-art – Vitlyckehäll (image from​ Wikipedia)


Curating Digital Heritage​

Dear Friends,

Recently I started to work as a PhD candidate at Utrecht University. I am based in the Department of History and Art History and I am part of the Cultural History research group.

My research project focuses on how European institutions are dealing with the digital turn and what it meant for them and for their visitors. I will analyse the decision-making process involved in the creation and curation of digital heritage, and the nature of the ethical consequences that these decisions have on museums’ narrative.

My research is part of CHEurope project (Critical Heritage Studies and the Future of Europe: Towards an integrated, interdisciplinary and transnational training model in cultural heritage research and management), a PhD training program supported by the European Union under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) – Innovative Training Networks (ITN).

It is thanks to my previous experiences if I developed this project and the main research question I am going to investigate, therefore I think this blog is the right place to continue sharing the results of my work. I hope it will be of interest to you as well!

Utrecht Dom tower
Utrecht Dom tower


Ename 1290 backstage – Reconstructing Saint Salvator Abbey

Dear friends,

In some past articles I talked about the project Ename 1290, which is a virtual 3D walk-through developed for the visitors of the Provincial Archaeological Museum of Ename, in order to allow them to experience interactively the medieval village and the Saint Salvator abbey. I think it is now the moment to describe the work that has been done for creating the 3D model of the abbey and its furniture starting from the archaeological evidences.

Historical Context

Map of Lotharingia (from: “Kaart van Lotharingen”. Credit: Algamene geschiedenis der Nederlanden, deel 1, p. 317.)

Ename was established as a trade settlement in the last years of 10th century by Godfrey and Matilda van Verdun, due to the strategic position of the site in a natural harbour on the river Scheldt, which at the moment was the border of the Holy Roman Empire. When the rivalry between the Empire and the Count of Flanders grew, at the beginning of 11th century, Baldwin IV of Flanders attacked Ename and destroyed its fortified keep. His son Baldwin V took possession of the settlement in 1047 and consecrated the territory to prevent any further military use. In 1063 his wife Adele, daughter of the king of France, founded the abbey with a dedication to Our Lady. The abbot and twelve monks were called from the abbey of Arras and used the old palace building as temporary monastery. The construction of a new abbey started immediately around the church of Saint Salvator that had been previously the church of the trade settlement. In 1070 the new abbey was founded a second time with a new dedication to Saint Salvator.

The abbey of Ename in the 4th quarter of the 13th century (From: Veil Rentier, Koninklijke bibliotheek Brussel. Credits: Visual Dimension bvba)

Although it hosted a small community of monks, the abbey was rich and over the centuries it became one of the major abbeys in Flanders. It maintained a strong link with the Count of Flanders during its entire existence over more than seven centuries, and its abbots played a strategic role in the political life of the country. The Saint Salvator abbey was confiscated by the French Republic in 1795 as a consequence of the French Revolution. It was sold and taken down before 1800.

Sources assessment

archaeological site
The archaeological site of Saint Salvator abbey and the Provincial Heritage Center of Ename .

The Saint Salvator abbey was excavated in two main archaeological campaigns, over a period of almost thirty years: from 1941 to 1946 by prof. Adelbert Vande Walle and from 1982 to 2004 by the team of Dirk Callebaut. A first major effort for the virtual reconstruction of the Saint Salvator abbey was undertaken by Visual Dimension in the period 1997-2004. The work was based upon the results of the excavations and on the extensive research both on the history of the settlement and the evolution of its landscape. Since 2012 new 3D models have been created to visualise the evolution in time of the abbey. All the 3D models are available on Europeana thanks to the 3D-Icon European Project and can be seen here.

The period that we have chosen to reconstruct is linked to Martijn van Torhout, a medieval monk working in the abbey of Ename who was one of the first to write in ancient Dutch, the language of the common people. His figure allowed us to emphasise the role of the scriptorium in medieval abbeys.

For the educational game we decided to visualise the interior of the abbey, thus we started a major work of research on the remains. All the available information about the site have gone through a new discussion and several details of the former 3D reconstruction have been modified and updated following better interpretations of the remains. Thus, the virtual reconstruction was the result of a better interpretation of all the knowledge today at our disposal on the abbey. Reconstructing the inside of the abbey has substantially improved our understanding of the architectonic structure of the buildings and the function and interrelation of each room.

Measurements on the archaeological site.

At first, the remains of the archaeological site have been carefully inspected, measured and compared with data from excavation reports. Keeping in mind the overlapping of the different phases of the buildings through centuries and the abbey spaces as they were prescribed by the Benedictine rule, we come up to a hypothesis of function of each space.

Interpretation of the archaeology

In order to produce a 3D reconstruction of the spaces, each building was investigated with layer and functional analysis. The layer analysis moves from the concept that, in medieval buildings, each constructive layer of walls was about 1,50 m in order to allow mortar to dry, thus all the architectural elements were fitting in this structure. Functional analysis, on the other hand, takes in consideration the rational displacement of architectonic elements in the environment. For example, the capital of a column in a vaulted room was placed above the eye level both to allow a better view inside the room and to avoid incidents, this consideration leads to an ideal position at about 1.70 m from the floor level. A combination of these two kinds of analysis allowed us to make an interpretation of the possible structure of each space.

Aerial view of the archaeological site during excavations (Credit: Wim Robberechts & Co). In the picture, chapter room and scriptorium are at the bottom side of the main cloister, on the right side of the church transept.

Representative examples of the methodology used in the reconstruction of the abbey are the chapter room and the scriptorium (see figure above), two spaces at the ground floor of the East-side building of the cloister. In their foundations are preserved several useful information about the structure of the two rooms that were both divided by central columns. Remains of a decorated splayed portal still preserved on site at the side of the chapter room entrance have been compared with coeval samples, resulting in a perfect matching both in dimension and style.

Chapter room. Remains of the entrance. The evidences of a splayed portal are preserved on site. (Credit: Visual Dimension bvba)
Some coeval examples of chapter rooms.
3D reconstruction of the chapter room.

The ground level in the two rooms was different: while the scriptorium was at the same level of the cloister, the chapter room was three steps (about 60 cm) lower. This information, in relation with a layer analysis of the building, led us to hypothesise that, while the chapter room was covered with a vaulted stone ceiling, the scriptorium had a wooden ceiling and thus we hypothesised the presence of a second floor with a library. This possibility was supported both by the position of the entrance door to the scriptorium, unusually narrow and placed as closer as possible to the southern wall of the room, by the non-central position of the columns and by the correspondence between the measures of the room with those necessary to have a stair to the second floor. A confirmation to this hypothesis was then found in Berings [1989], where it is quoted a fragment of a manuscript that attested the presence of a two floors library.

3D reconstruction of the ground floor of the library with the scriptorium.
3D reconstruction of the first floor of the library with the reading room.

The layer analysis of the building, in combination with the study of the plausible structure of the roof, determined the total height of the edifice. The same procedure has been used to reconstruct all the other building of the abbey. They include the refectory of monks, that was closing the cloister on the opposite side of the of the church, and the guests quarter, which occupied the remaining side of the cloister together with the kitchens. Of all the environments that were opened on the cloister, only the kitchen of the monks and the kitchen of the abbot were not reconstructed, due to the complexity of the interpretation of the overlapping phases in the archaeological remains.

3D reconstruction of the refectory.
3D reconstruction of the guests dining room.
3D reconstruction of the entrance room. The door on the left side is opened on the guests dining room, while the one in the front is opened on the cloister. The stairs lead to the guests lodging. The block on the right side was the private apartment of the abbot.

The archaeological evidence has been extensively used to determine the appearance of architectonic elements. All the capitals used as a support for the ceiling are the copy of an existing octagonal sample still preserved on site. A gothic architectonic element found at the archaeological site inspired the gothic windows of the guests dining room and the arches above the lavatorium. Those elements that, on the contrary, have not been found archaeologically, have been reconstructed on the basis of still existing coeval examples.

Octagonal capital preserved on-site (credit: Visual Dimension bvba). This octagonal capital has been used as a model for all the capitals of the abbey that support vaults and ceilings.
3D reconstruction of the gothic window of the guests dining room.
3D reconstruction of the cloister with the lavatorium, traces of which we have found near the entrance ot the refectory.
3D reconstruction of the cloister. Capitals recall coeval examples of still standing 13th century abbeys.



  • Geert Berings, Landschap, geschiedenis en archeologie in het Oudenaardse, Published in 1989 in Oudenaarde by Stadsbestuur


Looking back at SIGRAD 2016

Dear friends,

it was a great honor to be invited as Keynote speaker to present my work at SIGRAD, in Visby. Several Swedish research groups presented their outstanding results. This serves to highlight excellent Swedish research, stimulate the discussion and initiate collaborations.

I had the opportunity to join the Gotland Game Conference and take a look at the expo where students were showing their projects. The were some very interesting games and some inspiring ideas that could be further developed in a formal cultural context. I found it very interesting to discuss with students and understanding their point of view on entertainment through video games, the values they put in their projects and the their importance as artistic creations. I think I learn a lot from them and their enthusiasm.

Attendees at SIGRAD 2016

Heritage in Motion Award 2016

Dear friends,

On May 20, 2016 the winners of the Heritage in Motion Award 2016 have been announced. Belgium’s Provincie Limburg was awarded for the Heritage in Motion ‘Best Achievement Award’ for their project ‘Limburg 1914-1918, Small Stories from a Great War’.

Visual Dimension was nominated for the Heritage in Motion Awards 2016 in the category “Games and Interactive Experiences” with the Ename 1290 project. Have a look at the Ename blog to know more about this project!


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Dear Friends,

next week, on Tuesday the 24th of May, I will present my work and the use of 3D reconstruction and Computer Graphic in Cultural Heritage at SIGRAD 2016 conference, the Swedish chapter of Eurographic. The conference will be held in Uppsala University, Campus Gotland in Visby.

You can find the full program of the conference at the website


Ename 1290 nominated for the Heritage in Motion Awards 2016

Dear friends,

Today I am happy to announce you that Visual Dimension has been selected as one of the eight finalists for the Heritage in Motion Awards 2016 with the application Ename 1290. Heritage in Motion is an annual multimedia competition which celebrates the best multimedia achievements and products, through varied, creative and innovative means, in order to draw attention to the value of Europe’s cultural and natural heritage in all its facets.

The winners, selected by an international jury composed of multimedia experts and consumers, will be announced and celebrated at a ceremony on 20 May 2016 in Lesbos (Greece), during the annual conference of the European Museum Academy, founding partner of this initiative.

Ename 1290 is a virtual 3D walk-through that allows visitors of the Provincial Archaeological Museum to experience interactively the medieval village and abbey of Ename as it was in 1290.  The walk-through allows not only guides to give a virtual tour through the village and the abbey, it also allows school children to play an educational game in this virtual reconstruction, based upon pure historical facts and archaeological excavation results. The application is permanently on display in the Provincial Heritage Center of Ename.

In my future posts I will describe the work done to reconstruct the Saint Salvator abbey and its interiors in 1290.

Have a look at the video to discover how the application works!