Mingei will explore the possibilities of digitising and making accessible both tangible and intangible aspects of craft as heritage. Heritage Crafts[1] (HCs), meaning crafts that are of Cultural Heritage (CH) significance, involve craft tangible artefacts and products, traditional materials and tools, while encompass craftsmanship as a form of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH)[2]. Intangible HC dimensions include knowledge about materials, dexterity, know-how, and skilled use of tools, as well as, tradition, structure, and a common sense of identity of the communities in which they are, or were, practiced. HCs are part of the history and economic life of the areas and communities in which they flourished. Their nature, diversity, excellence and significance vary over time and they are part of the CH and history of local societies, nations, and continents. HCs are object of cultural exchange or may be secret and can be decisive to the economic or military dominance of a nation.

The technical, historical, and social knowledge about a HC, its temporal evolution over time, and the way that it is taught are parts of humanity’s Cultural Heritage. The significance and urgency to the preservation of HCs is underscored by UNESCO[3], as several are threatened with extinction, due to the declining numbers of practitioners and apprentices”, in combination with demotivation, lack of interest in younger generations and urbanization.

Craftsmanship has been important in Europe’s history as whole, i.e. the development of the 19th century applied and industrials arts led to 20th century design, and at the same time, were affected by historical eras, such as the Industrial Revolution. The study of HCs can provide essential knowledge in historical, societal and economic topics, and the significance of HCs can only be understood against these contexts, which have a strong interdisciplinary and cross-border nature. HCs hold strong potential for Europe’s Cultural Heritage Institutions (CHIs) and Creative and Cultural Industries (CCIs), which play an significant role in the EU economy, tourism, rural regeneration and competitiveness, while provide a fruitful terrain for intergenerational and life-long learning.

Despite the cultural significance, the need for preservation, the extensiveness of HC related tourism, the current European revival of crafts[4], and the pressing educational needs, efforts for HC representation and preservation are scattered geographically and thematically. Challenges also include the wide span of HCs in tangible and intangible dimensions, as well as, their multiple, temporal, societal, economic, and geographical contexts.

Mingei will provide means to establish representations of HCs based on digital assets and semantic annotations, in a way that captures and preserves both tangible and intangible CH dimensions.  Meaningful and documented experiential presentations of HC will be achieved through narratives. These presentations will address a range of uses including, personalized storytelling, interactive Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), and through the Internet. Engaging cultural experiences have a direct impact in interest growth and tourism, which can support HC communities and institutions. A secondary impact is the attraction of new apprentices to guarantee long-term HC preservation and its economy. The consortium brings together targeted and complementary expertise and content:

  • FORTH, international standardisation of knowledge representation for CH, interactive systems for CH, user-centred design, and human motion capture, with the capacity to support, if needed, all critical technical domains of the project.
  • ARMINES, motion capture for hand and body tracking, gesture and event recognition, focused in traditional and industrial crafting, as well as, online platforms for CH dissemination and training and MR technologies
  • WAAG, co-creation of knowledge and co-design of tools with HC stakeholders, so that complementary perspectives and diverse requirements of stakeholders are reflected in project outcomes.
  • CNR, international digital libraries and semantic technologies, and the derivation of narratives from of semantically organised knowledge representations.
  • MIRALab, intelligent interaction for museums guides, essential for applications delivering personalized narratives and educational experiences, AR, VR and Virtual Characters.
  • IMA, user-centred design, development of game-based and immersive solutions, which will employ in the creation of mobile AR presentations for museum applications.
  • PIOP, a Network of 9 Museums promoting cultural heritage and identity through traditional, artisanal, and industrial crafts. The Chios Mastic Museum showcases the hyper-local mastic cultivation and the processing of its resin, an indigenous craft that is on the UNSESCO’s representative list of ICH. The Silk Museum in Soufli studies silk manufacturing and how the town of Soufli became a major silk-producing centre in the past.
  • HdS, a museum and weaving workshop for silk ecclesiastical textiles, with community of former weavers that demonstrate weaving and fabric creation skills, with a volunteering Association of Friends that strives for the safeguarding of this endangered HC.
  • CNAM, Musée des arts et métiers, is a heritage repository and exhibit space for historical science and technology artefacts, with its identity rooted to the scientific, cultural, and professional fields. CNAM brings testimonies of the history of science and technology since the Modern Era, in the field of industrial crafts.

Cultural partners (PIOP, HdS, CNAM) have extensive digital archives and multimedia repositories on their content.

[1] H. Jennings, Towards a Definition of Heritage Craft, Creative & Cultural Skills, 2012.

[2] UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage Domains, 2003.

[3] UNESCO, Text of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2003.

[4] RICHES, European Policy Brief, “Towards a Craft Revival: Recalibrating Social, Cultural, Economic and Technological Dynamics” April 2016.