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Sensing the Past

Research sub-group within Sensory Archaeology, Architecture, and the Virtual Past

Group Coordinator 

Dr. Patricia S. Lulof

Subgroup coordinators

Pamela Jordan (PhD), Sara Mura (PhD)

Institutional or professional partners

4D Research Lab
Documentatiecentrum Stelling van Amsterdam

Description of the research sub-group

The group responds to a growing field of sensory-based inquiry of the constructed past; across the humanities, researchers are integrating traditional visual models into more holistic sensory considerations. The subgroup has a particular focus on current investigatory practices—both in research and interpretation—that approach senses individually or through their interrelationships. The ambition of this research subgroup is to provide an interdisciplinary collaborative framework for research of designed and built environments, focusing on the human senses, perception, multisensory aesthetics, and spatial design affect through time. We aim to foster a common language across disciplines and empower participants to contribute to conservation, site redevelopment, decolonizing, and accessibility dialogues in heritage beyond mere material evidence.

Envisaged results

The sub-group research seeks to bring scholars together within the Netherlands as well as connecting a broader community of researchers investigating sensory experience in heritage and archaeological contexts broadly defined (including archaeology, architectural history, anthropology, art history, and theater studies among others). Activities will include the organization of international workshops and events on sensory research; the publication of collected volumes of presentations from public events; regular organization of panel discussions in international conferences; research articles in periodicals specializing in heritage, archaeology, architecture, conservation theories, and practices; a reading group with regular meetings and activities; an informal lecture series centered at the UvA; and two completed PhD dissertations centered in sensory archaeology. Outputs that move beyond the confines of text-based publications will be actively encouraged, such as collaborations with the UvA 3D/4D Lab, audio/visual publications, and live research encounters.

Work plan and time schedule

The 2022-2025 program of the sub-group consists of the following activities:

  • 1-2 International workshops on sensory research in archaeology, conservation, and heritage practices;
  • Publication of 2021 workshop proceedings;
  • Ongoing mixed methods sensory research and related publications (conducted in cooperation with the Documentatiecentrum Stelling van Amsterdam);
  • Regular informal meetings of the reading group.

The work plan also includes 2 PhD dissertation projects:

  • P. Jordan (expected completion Spring 2023)
  • S. Mura (expected completion Spring 2024)

Societal relevance

Sensory research in heritage studies redresses current gaps in both research methods and public interaction, making its societal relevance multifaceted. It responds to current needs for new modes of accessibility, from physical site access to providing interpretive inroads to a wider public. It provides forms of knowledge creation beyond privileged and often museum-focused perspectives, an essential concern in ongoing decolonizing work within archaeology especially. It also directly addresses the role of the researcher’s perspective, as the foundation of ‘unbiased’ research continues to be debated in critical heritage studies. In harmony with 'Sensory Archaeology, Architecture and Virtual Past', the subgroup further promotes practical forms of sustainable practice in archaeological, architectural, and conservation research by valorizing the variety of non-invasive research strategies being utilized today. Lastly, the group presents a forum for practitioners across a wide range of disciplines to develop a common language of sensory research, sorely needed in the blindly imbricated landscape of discourse related to heritage today.

Contact

Those interested in group participation and related events may send an email to sensory.workshop-fgw@uva.nl to receive occasional updates.