Gaming combines the Lab’s focus on immersive technologies with entertainment. Games have the potential not only to entertain, but to make substantive historical knowledge more widely available to audiences beyond the academy. One of the aims of the Lab is therefore to contribute expertise on premodern Islamic visual culture and history to games (both analog and digital), by working in collaboration with developers. In summer 2020 I explored gaming and Islamic visual culture in the Creative Informatics Creative Bridge pre-accellerator programme, and in a talk for MIT AKPIA.
A Viking in the Sun
With Gianluca Racagni (History, Classics & Archaeology) and the History & Games Lab. A collaborative project combining academic research on cultural encounter in the 11th century Mediterranean with public engagement in history through gaming and creative media.
Digital Astrolabe Project
With Mike Boyd (uCreate Studio), Elizabeth Lawrence (Centre for Research Collections), and PhD students Sarah Slingluff (History of Art) and Calum Robert Main (Animation). Our astrolabe project is inspired by the 11th century Cordoban instrument in Edinburgh, one of the treasures of the National Museums of Scotland, and by Lawrence’s 2018 Edinburgh Book Festival astrolabe workshop. Our aim is to create a digital model of the NMS astrolabe and a brief viewing guide to explain its significance as a work of medieval Islamic visual culture, along with a durable model of Dominic Ford’s Make-Your-Own astrolabe, which students can use to learn the functions of this important medieval technological device.
New Imaging Technologies for Heritage: an Islamicate Celestial Globe in the National Museum of Scotland
With Melissa Terras (Centre for Data, Culture & Society) and Tayce Philipson (National Museum of Scotland), our project focuses on an important scientific instrument on display in the National Museum: a seventeenth-century celestial globe bearing an inscription identifying its maker as Diya’ al-Din Muhammad, and its year and place of production, 1074 AH/1663-64 CE in Lahore, in present-day Pakistan. The globe was cast as a solid sphere, using the lost-wax technique, an innovation that is attributed to this maker’s family and their Lahore workshop.
The project begins in 2020-21 with a postgraduate internship. Natasha Sivanandan, MSc candidate in the History of Art, Theory and Display, is researching the materials and techniques of the globe’s facture in preparation for the project’s ultimately aim: to investigate the materiality and craft technique of the object through the heritage application of new digital medical imaging techniques, such as microtomography (Micro-CT). Enabling scholars to ‘see’ inside objects and to determine the elemental composition of materials, such techniques will help us move beyond art history’s traditional emphasis on surface and elements visible to the naked eye, and to construct a more complex object biography for this object, one based on materiality, facture, change and mobility.