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  • Ceci n’est pas un temple. Visual secondary sources between representation and documentation

    Valeria Vitale

    Chapter from the book: Palladino C. & Bodard G. 2023. Can’t Touch This: Digital Approaches to Materiality in Cultural Heritage.

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    As 3D models appear more and more often in scholarly and scientific contexts, the need to document the study of the numerous and diverse sources that supports these digital research outputs has become more apparent.

    The quest for fragments of information disseminated in various kinds of secondary sources, from travel memoirs to sketches to historical photographs, is of a peculiar nature, though. In many cases these documents become invaluable first-hand accounts of something that may not exist anymore. On the other hand, anyone who has ever worked with secondary sources will be familiar with their inaccuracies, poetic licences and even outright fabrications.

    Combining tools from digital humanities, art history and semiotics, and looking at examples from the most represented—and misrepresented—archaeological site in modern history, the buried city of Pompeii, this chapter invites the reader to look at secondary sources describing ancient buildings not simply as resources to be mined to extract nuggets of more or less reliable information, but as representations in their own right that deserve to be investigated beyond their literal value. The challenge then becomes to contextualise these historical representations, and to try to retro-engineer the semiotic processes that went into their creation. We claim that researchers applying 3D modelling to the study of ancient buildings find themselves in the privileged position of analysing these earlier representations through the lens of the act of making, thus untapping further layers of meaning.

    Finally, we will show how this approach helps to unravel the rich relationship between disappeared artefacts and their past and present representations, ultimately promoting a view of documentation as a dialogue between the artists and scholars of the past and present, as well as those of the future.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Vitale, V. 2023. Ceci n’est pas un temple. Visual secondary sources between representation and documentation. In: Palladino C. & Bodard G (eds.), Can’t Touch This. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5334/bcv.b

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Published on Dec. 18, 2023


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