INITIATIVE: VENEZUELA

Preserving Venezuelan Culture Digitally — Initiative: Venezuela

In collaboration with Institutional Monuments and Assets of Venezuela (IAM VZ), a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the cultural heritage of Venezuela, The Arc/k Project taught on the ground preservationists in Venezuela how to capture objects, monuments, or landscapes in their local communities, amidst the political turmoil and heritage threats. IAM VZ and Arc/k worked with five cultural institutions, five photographers, and two universities across six cities — teaching photogrammetry to over seventy people.

Creative Process and Documentation

Arc/k shipped cameras, equipment, and hard drives to IAM VZ partners. Through videoconferencing and video tutorials, Arc/k taught the technique of photogrammetry to photographers, who then taught mobile workshops to their community. The participants sent archival photo sets, and Arc/k created 3D models. These models were then uploaded back to the photographers for feedback and additional shooting, until highly detailed and textured 3D models were achieved. Arc/k aided and encouraged the 3D documentation of works that were quite varied, including: prized paintings in their National Gallery, sections of a favela near Caracas, UNESCO World Heritage sites University City of Caracas and Port of Coro, as well as UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Dancing Devils of Corpus Christi in Yare.

EDUCATION

Through video conferencing and instructional tutorials, Arc/k remotely taught the photogrammetric process to several photographers in the country, who subsequently taught others via traveling workshops. Arc/k took care to shoot the Spanish version of the tutorial (video tutorial) using a native Venezuelan speaker to keep colloquial verbiage and minimize possible confusion. IAM VZ and Arc/k also awarded scholarships to sixteen university students in order to build skills and cultivate meaningful heritage discussions with the next generation.

Additionally, our workshops in the El Calvario favela were a huge success. The community members of the town chose which iconic cultural artifacts, structures and statues to capture, and we then created 3D models from their images. We also helped facilitate a workshop called “El Calvario Puertas Abiertas” (Open doors to El Calvario) in which children were taught about the importance of cultural heritage in the community.

EXPLORE THE COLLECTION

The Cultural Heritage of Venezuela collection has grown to over 220 objects from museum collections and monuments at risk. Explore the collection: Archival Collection: Cultural Heritage of Venezuela.

Scope of Work

  • Digital cultural heritage documentation across six cities in Venezuela
  • Education and training programs included workshops on photography, photogrammetry and cultural heritage, such as:
    • In-person workshops in Coro and Maracaibo
    • A photogrammetry workshop at the Colonial Art Museum of Caracas at Quinta de Anauco
    • A 3-month workshop with the Center for Research and Photographic Studies at University City
    • Educational engagement with community of El Calvario town (El Hatillo municipality) to document symbolic archaeology included workshops on photography and photogrammetry and:
    • A workshop “Reconocimiento patrimonial” (Recognizing Heritage) with a specialist on cultural heritage for members of the community with the purpose of guiding them in recognizing local symbols to register
    • A workshop “Exploradores de la imagen y la memoria.” / (Explorers of Images and Memories) with students of the elementary school Mary May
    • Photogrammetry of 8 symbolic pieces/sites at El Calvario town
    • Exhibition at the event “El Calvario puertas abiertas.” We printed 12 pictures with symbols of the community and a banner with the information about the activities executed there. These images were placed on the streets of the community for the event. We also presented the 3D solves on an iPad
    • Production of texts about the objects/sites documented to understand the local importance of them
  • Educational webinars and video conference sessions:
    • 4 webinars with people from Coro, Mérida, Barinas, Maracay, San Antonio del Táchira and Maracaibo
    • Follow up sessions with participants at CIEF and Colonial Museum workshops
    • Follow up video conference sessions with photographers for feedback on photogrammetry technique
  • 3D documentation of public art, museum collections, monuments, heritage sites
  • 3D documentation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and UNESCO Intangible Heritage
  • With IAM VZ, we partnered with five cultural institutions, two universities, and five photographers to teach the 3D documentation practice of photogrammetry
  • Over 70 participants–photographers, historians, journalists, students mdash; learned the technique of photogrammetry, received feedback and 3D models of their work from the Arc/k team
  • Over 220 objects from museum collections, sculptures and monuments at risk are digitally archived as 3D models in the Arc/k Project’s Archival Collection

Threats

  • Economic Crisis, Political Unrest, Looting and Destruction of Cultural Heritage

Partners

  • IAM Venezuela
  • CiEF (Center for Research and Photographic Studies)
  • Photographers in Venezuelan cities and affiliated universities and museums
  • Palace of the Academies in Caracas, an essential building that headquarters five National Academies, and essential historical objects and documents
  • University City of Caracas — UNESCO World Heritage Site, this university includes dozens of masterpieces of modern architecture and visual art
  • The Colonial Art Museum of Caracas at Quinta de Anauco
  • Museum of Contemporary Art of Zulia
  • The National Art Gallery
  • The Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament of the Dancing Devils of Yare
  • El Calvario Puertas Abiertas

Sponsors and Support

  • Caracas Photo
  • Space Foundation
  • Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural
  • Consejo de Preservación y Desarrollo de la Universidad Central de Venezuela
  • Individual donors to The Arc/k Project’s Global Giving campaign

Education Highlight: The Bust of Simón Bolívar

The small Venezuelan team successfully utilized the photogrammetry technique of overlapping camera placement and coverage to capture a detailed and texture rich 3D model from the photo data. However, they made a few mistakes: they didn’t achieve enough coverage around the crown of the bust, and they neglected to include key measuring tools. Through video conference sessions, we clearly illustrated the gaps, reinforced photogrammetry best practices, and helped them improve their techniques. By showing the specific camera angles using the digital model, we were able to visually explain the process in a much more concise way for each subject. This insightful feedback allowed the team to try a few more times in order to achieve optimal versions of the 3D model.

HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR ARCHIVAL COLLECTION

Stolen Bronze (Páez Bust)

This bust was stolen a few months after photographers captured it digitally, showing the importance of prioritizing immediately threatened cultural heritage. Learn more from an article from IAM VZ.

Commissioned painting from the National Art Gallery

The Miranda en La Carraca is considered one of the most important artworks in all of Venezuela. We were honored to work with photographers at the museum to train them on the skills to document this piece in detail (including the front and back).

3D models of artwork also can help customs and law enforcement agencies prevent looting and export of cultural treasures, especially in times of national crisis.

Dancing Devils of Yare

The Dancing Devils of Yare is a unique catholic tradition in the region that has been going on for centuries. People in San Francisco de Yare (Miranda state) celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, dancing and wearing masks. This tradition has many rituals and rules and was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2012, by UNESCO. We decided not only to do photogrammetric capture of the masks and reliquaries, but also of the streetlife and town square. Extensive video was taken of the event. Future plans involve an immersive VR experience where people inside and outside of the community can learn about the history and vibrancy of this cultural tradition.

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