New project to help businesses bring the region's rich heritage to life: digitally

Posted on Thursday 17th May 2012

 A unique new project to help businesses bring the region’s cultural heritage to life through the use of new and exciting digital interactive technologies is being launched at the University of Birmingham. 

The new £2.4 million Digital Heritage Demonstrator project, is supported by £1.2 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It offers a host of tools that businesses can use to create digital ways to explore museum collections, enjoy art and culture or to learn about the heritage of West Midlands.

The project also makes accessible for businesses, facilities which include a suite of innovative multi-user, 3D multi-touch technologies, mobile devices and tablets, advanced user-testing facilities and Augmented Reality tools.

The potential uses for the technology include creating 3D rendering of objects in museum collections and developing interactive digital displays. However, the team want to work with business to develop new ways to integrate digital technology in the cultural and heritage sectors.

Dr Henry Chapman co-director of the Heritage and Cultural learning Hub explains: “The use of digital technology in the museum and cultural sector offers huge potential to allow the fabulous heritage of the West Midlands to be enjoyed in a way that has never been possible before.

Imagine being able to explore a three dimensional scan of a fragile sculpture on your tablet or to contribute through social media to the information that museums give to visitors about their collections.

We want to work with local businesses, for them to use our technology to create new and exciting ways to unlock this potential for the cultural heritage sector.”

With many of the region’s key heritage locations already on board with the digital world - including the Library of Birmingham (opening in September 2013), the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (IGMT) and the Hive, Worcester (a partnership project between Worcestershire County Council and the University of Worcester) – the project is aimed at demonstrating how this connection can help attract new business deals and increase profits. Specialist technical innovation advice will also be on offer explaining how to make best use the technologies.

As well as the support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the project has also been supported by a £150k grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation, over £200k of donations by University of Birmingham philanthropic donors, with additional matched funding provided by the College of Arts and Law and the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham, Birmingham Museums Trust, Birmingham City Council, Worcestershire County Council, and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.

Gino Bellavia, Director of the Digital Heritage Demonstrator, University of Birmingham said: “It is key to ensure that as a region we stay at the forefront of innovation and support the continued development of research and development this area. This project allows us to do just that by combining our strengths within the digital market with our outstandingly rich cultural heritage. This new project will allow us to demonstrate the many opportunities and benefits that can be realised by getting interactive and working together”.

Norman Price, Deputy Chair of the West Midlands ERDF Local Management Committee explains his support to this essential project. He said: “We must always strive to develop and evolve through embracing new technologies, especially within more traditional sectors. Showcasing our culture is important and doing this in an interactive way that will appeal to all audiences is key. It is essential that we are able to help local businesses get involved and make this connection and I am really pleased that we are able to provide ERDF funding support to embark on this exciting journey”.

The University of Birmingham Demonstrator team will be holding a series of regional road shows throughout the month of June to provide further details on how businesses can get involved with this innovative new project. The events will run from 8.30am until 10.00am, including a short presentation from Project Director Gino Bellavia, a chance to meet the team and network over breakfast with other regional Creative Industries businesses. Dates for these events are as follows:

 Wednesday 13th June 2012, Fazeley Studios – Birmingham

 Thursday 14th June 2012, Birmingham Science Park, Aston

 Thursday 21st June 2012,  Light House - Wolverhampton

 Wednesday 27th June 2012, The TechnoCentre – Coventry

To find out more about the project or register for one of the road show events please contact Gino Bellavia on 0121 414 3897, g.bellavia@bham.ac.uk or visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/ hclh/news/index.aspx  

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For further information, contact Ben Hill, PR Manager, University of Birmingham, Tel 0121 414 5134, Mob 07789 921163