1. The Problem Presented

The Egyptian gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum has remained almost the same for over thirty years. An injection of energy and life is needed to encourage visitors to the gallery to spend more time there, hopefully becoming familiar with more of the displays and exhibits as they do so. It was felt that a multimedia electronic display placed in the gallery could offer the solution to this problem. The display had to be interactive, educational, relevant to the Egyptian gallery, but not beyond the financial means of the institution. It was felt that with the growing technological developments in virtual reality (and complementary public interest) a computer model of an Egyptian tomb could be used to give some context to the artefacts in the gallery, thus persuading the museum visitor to pay more interest to the existing displays.

The Curator of Ancient Civilisations at the gallery, Simon Eccles, had identified a tomb which was suitable for such a project; the tomb of Sen-nedjem at Deir el-Medina. This tomb was chosen for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the tomb is that of a workman on the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings from the 19th Egyptian Dynasty. The reconstruction of this tomb would reflect the Egyptian collection of the museum, most of which comes from such individual tombs. Also, as Egyptian tombs go, it has fairly detailed, commonly available, archaeological reports which were thought to hold the information required to reconstruct the site in a virtual context (Bruyere 1959; Toda 1920). A third reason was that a 1994 publication by Abdel Ghaffar Shedid, Das Grab des Sennedjem (1994) contained comprehensive full colour images of the tomb, and, once copyright clearance was obtained, it would be possible to use these to produce a photorealistic reconstruction of the inner chamber of the tomb. (That is, if the hardware and software were powerful enough to cope with such images.) Thus it appeared this tomb not only had the necessary documentation which would allow a virtual model to be made, but it related to the collection at the Kelvingrove Museum.

The project (Terras 1998) was then an investigation into the use of virtual worlds for public education, constructing a virtual reality model that could be used in the museum. This would entail the production of the virtual reality model, the design of a user interface, and the evaluation of the model before installation in the gallery. VRML would be used as the means to generate the model; although a new development it seemed that it could provide the tools necessary to be able to implement the model at a low cost. In the process of building the display, then, the usefulness of VRML to archaeological reconstruction would be evaluated.


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Last updated: Mon Nov 29 1999