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Remote Access to WHS!

Author Solivagant
Registered
#1 | Posted: 28 Feb 2015 02:03 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Those who don't really know NW Scotland might not have picked up on the "significance" of the title of this news item about St Kilda which was posted on the site today - "New milestone for St Kilda Centre in Uig". http://www.stornowaygazette.co.uk/news/local-headlines/new-milestone-for-st-kilda-cen tre-in-uig-1-3703797

Well of course Uig is on the island of Skye and not St Kilda! The article refers to the fact that "project is the official UNESCO case study on "remote access" to World Heritage Sites in general." . And here is an article on a 2011 conference about using St Kilda to study the possibilities of "Remote Access" from the UNESCO site itself - http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/820.
Here is the Agenda - http://www.kilda.org.uk/RAWHSC%20Nov11%20Programme%20Final.pdf .
And here is a paper containing the conclusions of the conference - http://www.unesco.org.uk/uploads/Brief%204%20Using%20remote%20access%20technologiesSe pt%202012.pdf
(A very disappointing paper in my view which seems more concerned with establishing UK credentials in these technologies than in considering the pros and cons!)

Forum members might find it interesting to consider a world in which more and more sites are accessible by "Remote Access". We have been lucky enough to visit St Kilda but we could each come up with a list of WHS we are probably never going to visit (Wrangel, Okapi etc!). To what extent could "seeing" ("experiencing"??) WHS via the most sophisticated media technology one could conceive of provide a worthwhile experience? Could it even "replace" a genuine visit? We all know of visits to sites which were not that successful - bad weather, many areas closed off, poor explanation, short of time, too many people etc etc. Why bother - look at it in 4D (Sound or smell?) via your virtual reality glasses and - voila - another site "ticked off" in glorious weather with a world famous actor as your "audio guide" reading with real meaning a brief prepared by the greatest experts on the site and giving you access to every important location - even with aerial views etc etc. And all to you alone as the only person "there"!! What more could anyone want?

The supposed benefits of the technology seem to include improved protection of fragile sites. And there lies a worrying possibility - that such technologies might be used as a means to close off sites from visitors - or at least to severely restrict numbers and/or open locations.

Another suggestion is that the technologies could be used to "enhance" the experience. That itself is "worrying"! I can't remember which WHS in China it was but a Visitor Centre there is being constructed with state of the art video etc and it seemed to be envisaged that visitors would spend most of their time in that centre before being taken on a "train" or similar to pass through/by the real site itself!!!

A fundamental question about remote access of course is the existential one about what is the personal benefit of actually having been to a WHS. Is one a "better", more "knowledgable" or "complete" person for having done so? The old saying about it being better to travel hopefully than to arrive has a lot of truth in it. Perhaps we do need both - the real visit with its "journey" and its potential disappointments as well as its successes - and also the chance to really see these sites under the very best conditions and with the very best explanations.

Author elsslots
Admin
#2 | Posted: 2 Mar 2015 23:28 
"Carved into cliffs in the Gobi Desert, 700 ancient grottos called the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas hold paintings and sculptures that date as far back as the second century. Unsurprisingly, the World Heritage Site is a little fragile, and many of the grottos are usually closed to the public. But a new experiment in virtual reality is opening up one of the caves for exploration from people around the world."

http://www.fastcoexist.com/3042969/this-world-heritage-site-is-closed-to-visitors-but -now-you-can-take-a-virtual-reality-tour

Author Solivagant
Registered
#3 | Posted: 3 Mar 2015 04:16 | Edited by: Solivagant 
It was indeed the new Dunhuang Visitor Centre which I had remembered (Construction began in 2010 for a 5yr project so it should be opening soon!!)
Here is the prescribed "Visitor Experience" which will be provided there -
"The New Visitor Experience
Arrive at Visitor Center and view multimedia exhibits.
View a documentary film about Dunhuang's historic place on the Silk Road, then experience the best caves in a virtual-reality domed theater.
Meet guides and board Dunhuang Academy buses for the 15 kilometer ride to Mogaoku.
Cross a new bridge over the Daquan River to see the famous Library Cave, then visit selected caves, concluding at Cave 96 (the giant Buddha).
Enjoy interactive multimedia displays in the refurbished Exhibition Center.
After returning to the Visitor Center, purchase books and souvenirs in the Gift Shop, or visit the Café."

See - http://www.friendsofdunhuang.org/newsletter/article.php?lang=en&id=080103
NB The centre is 15kms from the caves - "which will be located near Dunhuang's airport and railroad station in a conscious effort to reduce the intrusive impact of tourism on the Mogao site some 15 km away."

PS. Here is another WHS currently offering a "Virtual Reality tour". Perhpas we need to look for others to make a "Connection" - "Virtual Reality Tour available" (Slight problem with what constitutes "VR" - it must be more than just a 360 degree view - perhaps requiring a VR headset?. Also it needs to be the site as now even if it also has ""reconstructions"). I am sure there will be more and more as time passes. I am also sure that the current offerings will soon seem very "clunky". I came across an article on "Haptic Technology" which could offer "touch" as part of the experience!
http://www.santimamiñe.com/en/la-cueva-virtual-consolida-el-tiron-de-santimamine/

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