A Virtual Museum of Pompeii “ex Votos”: Design Strategies

A Virtual Museum of Pompeii “ex Votos”: Design Strategies

Alessandra Cirafici (University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Italy) and Alessandra Avella (University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Italy)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1234-0.ch007


Safeguarding cultural heritage—preserving it from the neglect of time and abandonment—is not in itself enough that the patrimony truly constitutes a part of that slow process of identity which in its inner essence of heritage, that of inheritance, cultural heritage is called upon to participate. For this to happen, it is necessary that heritage is “accessible” in the sense that Jeremy Rifkin has attributed to this term—proposed as a “possible experience” in everyday lives. Thus, new digital technologies not only make it possible to build virtually unlimited “memory archives”, but also to access systems, with a dynamic and interactive consultation so that a new generation of ‘prosumers' (producers/consumers) of the cultural heritage can give new meaning to it. This chapter investigates the potential and meaning of these new “memory archives” through the case study of the archive of the Ex Voto of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii and of the 'stories' that it treasures.
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The Digital Space Of Knowledge

“The idea of collecting objects, of building timeless structures that may challenge time itself and survive decay, as well as the very purpose of accumulating possessions for an undefined period of time, all belong to modern age” (Foucault, 2002, p. 29). Traces of this idea of modernity emerge in the contemporary dimension, and in the widespread and sometimes obsessive attitude to a sort of ‘archival practice’ to which the new digital culture potentially seems to expose any human activity.

However, digital culture has introduced radical transformations in the very way in which the practice of archiving is conceived and in the way in which the cultural value to be attributed to the experience that archives can have over time is understood. If we are talking specifically about the archives of those assets to which we have attributed the value of ‘cultural heritage’, it is interesting to point out from the outset that in this case the “present of our experience is a sort of previous incipit, open to possible, different, innumerable futures” (Bollini, 2013). The question is not only of a temporal order, but it is nourished by a concept of ‘relation’ whose key to interpretation is in the open structure of that process of aggregated and associative narration which today, thanks to new technologies, seems to govern any form of cognitive process. It is for this reason that the archive has ceased to be a place of ‘perpetual accumulation’ and has become, according to Faucaultian sense, a ‘critical device’ capable of regenerating the logic of the protection, conservation and diffusion of knowledge and of reactivating processes of memory and consciousness.

If libraries and museums could be said to embody 19th century’s heterotopias, just to mention Foucault’s definition (2002), today’s heterotopias are most certainly represented by “information architecture”: that is, places for information storage, transformation and transfer. In this sense, the relationship between digital culture and cultural heritage is much deeper and more substantial than the merely instrumental dimension allows us to guess. Both share the atomic dimension of the fragment, which only takes on value because it is connected to the context and to the set of other fragments that can be connected to it and which, together, acquire a complete meaning in a sort of aggregation of semantic nodes from which new itineraries of possible interpretations depart. Ted Nelson had magnificently defined it as the ‘hyper’ system, then taken up by the visionary intuition of that “As we may think” with which Vannevar Bush (1945) had explained the meaning of his “Memex”. But in neither case the focus is on technology. Attention is always given to thought and its sharing as a form of collective knowledge. Hypertextuality is the field in which the complexity of the articulation of knowledge heritages and deposits find the conceptual and relational dimension suitable for describing these complex, stratified, explorable and questionable links from different points of entry, according to different logics from time to time. So, the archive is not only the place, but also the act in itself of conservation, the definition of its 'form' that is, then, a structure for consultation, research, conservation, dissemination ...

Visually representing this intricate system can be quite a difficult task to accomplish, provided that the best way to render the complexity of semantic space consist in making it three-dimensional, thus highlighting the multi-dimensional dynamic of its flow of information (Mazzucchi, 2005); it is still, in fact, in the figurative dimension of space that it is possible to satisfy, through the use of adequate visual rhetoric, the instance of interpreting and visualizing the logics through the definition of appropriate associative hierarchies. The goal of representing the space of “knowledge and memory” has been pursued for ages in different cultures, and it finds its best application in the multimedia dimension, in which dynamics of interaction perfectly merge with Michel De Certau’s (2001) definition of ‘tactical’ fruition of the information space. Such fruition requires a dynamic, firm mind when it comes to orienting oneself in an environment which has, by its coordinates, those of the space of flows, and whose possible directions are numerous and irreversible, within a timeless space.

Key Terms in this Chapter

V.F.G.A.: Acronym for the following expression: Votum Fecit, Gratiam Accepit.

Archive: In its dynamic and performative meaning is the action that allows to transform the rules of protection into a critical device capable of reactivating memory and collective consciousness.

Accessibility: In the context of the ‘new economy’, the concept is understood as the set of complex conditions that make access to the cultural sphere really possible.

Prosumer: The expression, is a crasis of the terms producer and consumer that indicates a consumer who is in turn producer or, in the same act that consumes, contributes to the production.

Infographic Map: Diagrammatic ‘visualizations’ of the space of knowledge and its associative logics that allows to use its own 'form' as a tool to 'act' on complex systems of knowledge.

Cultural Agency: If by agency we mean the ability of an institution to act concretely within a context, the definition refers to a series of creative activities that contribute to society, including pedagogy, research, activism and the arts.

Collaborative Platforms: Digital infrastructures that facilitate, regulate through their own reputational system, promote, knowledge and common awareness.

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