Virtual Cultural Heritage represents a rather recent study area unifying the humanistic knowledge and computer science to study, preserve, enhance, and communicate the cultural heritage through digital technology. Despite the common meaning of “virtual”, the potential of VCH extends beyond just online reproduction of contents available on paper and physical objects. Like any other sector in the wider field of digital humanities, it leads to a deep and stimulating revolution in the use of culture.
The meaning in Latin of the term virtual (from Latin, virtus: quality, power) refers to an intrinsic potentiality, a being in potency that is turning into an act. We can therefore interpret a virtual reality as something that formally has not happened yet, but is about to happen, an itinerary where we can perceive its accomplishment.
What is the potential for cultural heritage? Actually with the development of the Internet and in particular of Web 2.0 the concept of “virtual space” has been directed to a highly complex and independent dimension, expanding the space available both in terms of content and relations.
At a content level, digital tools allow us to virtually reconstruct the immaterial context surrounding the cultural heritage. By visually representing the past, we can develop new approaches to study and communicate cultural heritage.
At a relational level, networking technologies have extended the range and occasions for interactions between people and institutions, providing a context of social participation.
Reaching out for the virtual dimension projects cultural institutions into the future. In doing so, Virtual Cultural Heritage offers museums the opportunity to accomplish their original mandate: to contribute to the development and the diffusion of human knowledge.
Stefania Zardini Lacedelli