Archaeology Seminar: Hearing the Past – The Role of Sound in Digital Heritage Research

Dr Damian Murphy (York Electronics) will be talking in the Archaeological Computing Research Group Lab (Room 3043 B65a) at Avenue Campus on Thursday 3rd May 3-5pm. All welcome. Please RSVP

“Hearing the Past – The Role of Sound in Digital Heritage Research”

Sound is often considered the poor relation of visual stimuli, yet plays a significant role in conveying information for rapid assimilation by a listener. It is a key component in the multi-modal perception of virtual/augmented reality applications, and can lead to highly evocative, engaging and immersive multimedia experiences. Research in the Department of Electronics AudioLab at the University of York has looked to develop a better understanding and preservation of heritage by considering the acoustic properties of specific sites and landscapes. The audio/acoustic preservation of these heritage sites is just as important as any other more tangible property, as all such aspects are subject to, and will be affected by, the inherent nature of change in the span of a site’s own particular history. Considering such acoustic characteristics better enables us to develop a more complete understanding of the past, for one thing we can be sure of is that the past was not a silent place.

Acoustic measurement captures the characteristic sonic fingerprint of specific sites for preservation and analysis. Computer modelling allows us to imagine, build and interact with these sites in the digital domain. Auralization enables these acoustic measurements or computer models to form the basis of an audio reconstruction and presentation so that we might place and manipulate any sound within a given space, and listen again to the echoes and resonances that are produced.

This work has more generally been explored as part of the AHRC/ESPRC funded I-Hear-Too project. Key research areas considered the use of sound recordings and archives in heritage preservation, their restoration, organisation and access together with what to record now for future preservation; virtual acoustic reality and immersive sound as a means to preserve and render sounds and environments in new forms; the role of sound, sound-art and archival recordings as a means to access, enhance understanding, or experience the diversity of heritage. I-Hear-Too has helped to highlight the importance of formalising and contextualising audio and acoustics research in digital heritage and will potentially lead to much further work in a number of areas.