One area of archaeology presents particular problems familiar to the archivist and art historian. Large-scale works created for the open air, especially those responding to a specific 'space' or landscape feature, require the viewer to be present, to become part of the setting or at least to pass through it in order to gain an understanding of their context. Similarly, sites exhibiting phenomena with a fleeting existence or those transformed over time as a result of natural forces can only be fully appreciated by direct experience - coming across them accidentally, returning to the scene repeatedly or spending time there. Often, examples of this type of artefact are found distributed across a prehistoric landscape, sculpture park, or historic garden, that might take many hours of exploration to appreciate fully (n.b. for the purposes of this article the term 'artefact' is used to describe any man-made or man-manipulated object, building, or sculpture, or a natural feature placed, worked or highlighted within a surrounding environment and landscape).

Landscape archaeologists will be familiar with this need to immerse themselves in the place they are studying to get that feeling for the space in order to generate useful insights. Yet often, such intense physical contact is not possible for long enough nor for everyone concerned. Access may be limited seasonally, or by the site's remoteness, or by issues of ownership or commercial land use. Individuals might be excluded for reasons of age, or disability, or geography. In addition, academic study of a site might be greatly improved if researchers were able to represent the subject of their investigation remotely, in as informative a way as possible, for example at seminars and conferences, or in on-line journals.

In most circumstances, maps and diagrams, photographs and even video footage can provide a good record of both the visible and even the invisible features of a landscape but are very poor at representing the subtle interrelationship of places and objects in three dimensions; in other words the 'feel' of the space! This article is concerned with analysing just how we might want to approach such a landscape - what it is that we might want to examine within it, how we use our senses to perceive it, and what new means are at our disposal to represent these perceptions at a distance. Specifically, closer examination of some of these concerns should suggest how they might respond to being transposed to new, more informative and intuitive styles of representation, such as hypermedia.


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Last updated: Mon Sep 25 2000