What if instead of reading a description of an Egyptian sarcophagus, you could grab information from the object itself? The Immersive Humanities Viewer aims to make this possible. It is a web tool for tagging three-dimensional models of historical objects with rich cultural data and sharing these tagged models. The Immersive Humanities team believes that this interface will increase the visibility of historians’ work by making the experience of interacting with an object, or at least a model of an object, an intriguing search for information with many different paths to discover.
Since users will be able to define their own data schema, queries can be either straightforward (show me all swords longer than 1.20 m) or complex (show me all coffins that have Book of the Dead spell 15 on the upper half of the lid).
Since objects often have different meanings to different communities, the tool allows anyone to contribute information: for example, Native American artifacts provide evidence of cultural history to scholars and students, but play vital, living roles in Native American communities. However, such artifacts also attract significant interest from individuals who may want to add information of questionable accuracy. For this reason, we allow readers to assess the reliability of their contributions by allowing credentialing and peer review in the tool.
CDH’s Lead DH Programmer, Dr. Dave Shepard, is one of the Principal Investigators of this project, along with Prof. Willeke Wendrich, CDH’s director. Anthony Caldwell, CDH’s lab manager, is contributing his modeling expertise. The faculty team also includes Egyptian coffin experts Kara Cooney (UCLA Near Eastern Languages and Cultures), whose initial attempt to build a database of coffins provided the main inspiration for the project, and Rita Lucarelli (UC Berkeley), whose work on how the Egyptian Book of the Dead was adapted to artifacts will be used as one of the first demonstrations of the viewer. All together, CDH staff are contributing project planning expertise, software prototyping and development expertise, and grant-writing expertise to the project.