By Blanca Pascual, MA student and junior research fellow in the JPI Deep Cities project, University of Barcelona
One of the case studies of the Deep Cities project is Hospitalet de Llobregat, a city that it is now part of what we could call the Great Barcelona (you can go from one to the other just by crossing over a street!) “L’Hospitalet 3D: bringing the Museum of L’Hospitalet closer to citizenry through the 3D digitisation of heritage”, aims to know Hospitalet’s “cultural tissue”, its different agents and, in particular, how citizen participation in the digitalisation of its heritage may enhance the city’s cultural agenda. The work developed here stems in an MA dissertation based on the Museum of L’Hospitalet, an institution that stands out for having a discourse that fits in with the philosophy of the Deep Cities project, having a series of rooms dedicated to the multi-layered history of the city.
During the L’Hospitalet 3D project, I, together with Ana Pastor and Margarita Díaz-Andreu as members of Deep-Cities-Barcelona team and helped by some GAPP members, have tried to delve deeper into the aspects of the virtualisation of heritage techniques, especially the Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry. We have analysed in which way the public in L’Hospitalet could obtain a benefit, in a viable and sustainable way in the long term. In order to achieve this, we have worked with local heritage, approaching the Museum of L’Hospitalet to non-specialised citizens and the general public. In this manner, connecting the application of these new technologies to heritage in a democratic way, we have aimed to achieve a wider overview of this deep city, generating an interest towards the digitalisation of its history and identity.
Over the past few years, and recently since the Covid-19 pandemic, 3D digitisation has become an indispensable tool for museums. It has proved indispensable for cataloguing, doing preventive conservation, undertaking research, and also for getting to know the collections in a unique, novel way.
There is growing awareness of how 3D digitisation is becoming an indispensable tool in the field of heritage and generally in the cultural sector. One of the definitive steps taken has been the adoption of technologies previously linked to video gaming (Zhao, Devine, & Gardner, 2019). Importantly, through the use of SfM (Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry) and Laser Scanning techniques, to have heritage at our fingertips has suddenly been made possible. With virtual reality, anyone can contemplate a place or object, from tiny pieces to large interior and exterior spaces including archaeological sites, anywhere, anytime and with a maximum quality resolution: any type of heritage asset or good is susceptible to be digitised in 3D.
Nevertheless, for the development of the L’Hospitalet 3D project, following the main aims of the Deep Cities project, we became increasingly interested in approaching 3D digitisation from a social perspective. This meant to create a sustainable project that strengthened the links between citizens and their local heritage. And this is how L’Hospitalet 3D was designed: creating a 3D digitisation plan within the framework of the urban local museums. At this point we would like to emphasise the outstanding cooperation we have received from the museum at all times.
As mentioned above, The Museum of L’Hospitalet was selected as a case study. L’Hospitalet is a rather decentralised city placed no more than three kilometres away from Barcelona city centre. In fact, its visual borders are lost in the urban jumble, and can only be discerned by street signs. This museum is located in the central district and has three headquarters – three farmhouses of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Can Riera, Casa Espanya and L’Harmonia. Its regular public is composed mainly by the surrounding schools. The impact of the pandemic was a challenge for the institution, as for any museum elsewhere in the world today.
This museum was inaugurated in the 1970s. Even though it is very well connected and accessible by public transport, within the instituton it was felt that its cultural actions were not reaching every area of the city equally. In this vein, the proposal of L’Hospitalet 3D, especially a section that is described as “cultural heritage route”, would help to democratise the access to culture and knowledge of heritage of the city of Hospitalet, spreading it throughout the territory in a more equal way.
The first phase of the proposal consisted of on-site fieldwork, as well as a series of interviews with professionals in the sector. We explored, mapped and analysed all the associations, institutions and other cultural stakeholders that could be related to the scope of the project. One of the most challenging tasks was to develop and distribute a survey to the population that would allow us to detect the cultural links between the different districts and the museum, making a real bottom-up proposal for this project.
In a nutshell, L’Hospitalet 3D project proposes four activities: an online catalogue, a cultural heritage route, a 3D digitisation workshop and a circle of conversations about digitised heritage.
Designed after a participatory selection between citizens and the Museum, the online catalogue would include 30 pieces digitised in 3D and uploaded to the Sketchfab platform, the most well-known platform worldwide for displaying 3D models. The models are interactive, offering the public a series of historical information at different levels; explaining their role in the past and present, offering a bridge of communication that reflects on the multi-temporality of the collections. The access points to this platform will be linked to a cultural route, distributed throughout all districts of the city. These points were selected based on the survey results. Some of the tentative models were already done during the process of the MA dissertation, and can be checked here:
In conclusion, it is expected that this project paves the way for the appliance of those techniques in the museum’s urban ecosystem. 3D virtualisation allows the digitisation and recognition of heritage at the same time that establishes a new way of capturing the cultural urban environment. L’Hospitalet 3D intends to be a tool for specialised and non-specialised citizens to produce a true and “deep” transmission of knowledge configuring a new digital space to discuss about Hospitalet and its heritage. Welcome to Deep L’Hospitalet 3D!