Cultural Memory & Digital Mediation: Three contrasting projects in Armenia, Australia and South Africa

 >  > Harold Short Digital Dialogue
Harold Short

Harold Short

Australian Catholic University
MITH Conference Room
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
12:30 pm

This session will include presentations on projects in three very different cultural and social contexts. The purpose of the session is to prompt and facilitate discussion around issues that arise in using digital tools and techniques to support and preserve cultural memory. Each project is nationally important in its own context, but each may also be seen as a ‘type’.

The Julfa cemetery digital repatriation project: countering cultural genocide through technology

The ancient cemetery at Julfa was perhaps the oldest Christian cemetery. It lies in Nakhichevan, for centuries part of Armenia, but since the 1920s part of Azerbaijan. After several decades of neglect, the cemetery was completely demolished in 2006 by the Azerbaijan army. The cemetery was of immense significance in Armenian religion and culture, and thanks to an archive of 4,000 photographs plus a great deal of additional evidence, a project, based at Australian Catholic University, is under way to create a sophisticated virtual reconstruction of the cemetery, with the purpose of ‘repatriating’ this important cultural heritage to Armenians not only in Armenia but in the many diasporas around the world.

The Journey to Horseshoe Bend Project

This project, along with a number of successor or related projects, is based at Western Sydney University and the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs. It holds the materials created and collected by the renowned Australian anthropologist T G H Strehlow, who spent his life among the Arrernte people of Central Australia (alternative spellings include: Arrente, Aranda, Arrarnta). The projects aim to encourage Indigenous and non-Indigenous involvement with Australian historical and cultural knowledge, and to build capacity for users to engage in digital story telling, e-learning and interaction with archival materials.

North-West University, South Africa: The Centre for Text Technology (CTexT)

The importance of the work done by this group lies in the fact that South Africa has 11 official languages, most of which are ‘resource-poor’ – i.e. they have few or no digital resources or tools available. The Centre for Text Technology (CTexT®) is a research and development centre at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. The Centre does research on human language technology and develops language technology products for the official South African languages. As a result of its pioneering work over a number of years, it was recently appointed to host and develop the national Language Resource Management Agency.

See below for a Storify recap of this Digital Dialogue, including links to resources and projects that Short referenced during his talk.

Harold Short is a Visiting Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University. He is Emeritus Professor of King’s College London, where he founded and directed the Centre for Computing in the Humanities (later Department of Digital Humanities) until retirement in 2010. At King’s he was involved in the development of three MA programmes: Digital Humanities, Digital Culture and Society and Digital Asset Management, and, with Willard McCarty, of the world’s first PhD programme in Digital Humanities, launched in 2005. He also played a lead role in a number of large-scale inter-disciplinary research projects. 2011-15 he was a visiting Professor at Western Sydney University, where he was closely involved in the establishment of the Digital Humanities Research Group, which hosted the Digital Humanities 2015 conference.

He is a former Chair of the European Association for Digital Humanities and the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organisations in which he has a continuing role to support the development of digital humanities associations world-wide. He is a general editor of the Ashgate series Digital Research in the Arts and Humanities.

A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues webpage.

Unable to attend the events in person? Archived podcasts can be found on the MITH website, and you can follow our Digital Dialogues Twitter account @digdialog as well as the Twitter hashtag #mithdd to keep up with live tweets from our sessions. Viewers can watch the live stream as well.

All talks free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches.

Contact: MITH (,, 301.405.8927).