3D technologies have become a new and powerful form of scholarly expression and communication. The mission of the Virtual World Heritage Laboratory is to apply these new tools both as interactive illustrations and also as tools of discovery. The scope of our interests, as implied by the phrase “World Heritage,” includes the entire human record of tangible cultural heritage. The focus of our investigations, as is suggested by the phrase “Virtual World," is 3D scientific simulation.
Hence, we specialize in using 3D tools to make "state models" documenting the current condition, or "state," of cultural heritage objects from the small scale of an engraved gem to the larger scales of a sculpture, building, settlement, or landscape. These models can be useful to educators and researchers. They also can make a critical contribution to conservators and restorers if the original heritage object is damaged or destroyed.
We also create experimental 3D "restoration models" using the state models as accurate points of departure. We recontextualize the restoration models to show how the individual cultural heritage object formed part of a larger environment. We use the digitally recreated environment to run experiments or to recreate experiences that would be impossible short of real time travel.
The VWHL is also a supporting group of the Digital Heritage research area of the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. Digital Heritage is concerned with preserving, analyzing, and disseminating anything of cultural heritage import. Ultimately, anything considered important enough to be passed on to the future can be considered to have heritage value of some kind, independently of how ancient or widely appreciated and protected it is. This interdisiplinary research group within the Luddy School is particuarly well suited to activity in this domain.