Remembering the Old World: An Analysis of the Interaction Between Virtual Heritage and Cultural Memory
Merlijn Veltman is a research master student at Utrecht University, where he studies Ancient, Medieval and Renaissance studies, with an emphasis on antiquity. His main research themes include the ancient Roman economy, cultural transformation in Late Antiquity, migration in Late Antiquity and the more metaphysical discussions of virtualization and cultural heritage. After his master studies he wants to either continue his research by doing a PhD or find a job as a publisher. Aside from research and university, he enjoys composing his own songs and music for indie films under the name of Tintagelmusic in his spare time.
Preserving cultural heritage is becoming increasingly difficult. Archaeological heritage in the Middle East is targeted and deliberately destroyed by terrorist organizations such as Daesh, and valuable Syrian heritage is destroyed in the country’s civil war. One possibility for preserving cultural heritage is by creating a virtual reality environment, embedded with cultural heritage, often defined as ‘virtual heritage’ or by three-dimensionally printing pieces of heritage. It is important to discuss the effects of new media on heritage, as these are still poorly understood. This paper examines the virtualization of cultural heritage through the lens of cultural memory studies. I ask the research question: how does virtualization affect the process of creating cultural memory through heritage? First, I examine the essence of heritage and its role in creating cultural memory. Second, I examine the effects of virtualization on the link between heritage and its locality. The conclusion of this paper is that the effects of virtualization on the process of constructing cultural memory through heritage are two-fold. First, the scale of the heritage is increased from a local, regional or national level to a global dimension. This allows for a new way of formulating identity, moved away from nationality and towards a global identity. Second, the process of creating cultural memory is democratised, allowing more individuals to concern themselves with heritage preservation and identity formation.