On Victoria’s Lost Pavilion Project

“adicel20”, a student enrolled in this semester’s ENG 5998 reading group, reflects on some of the readings provided by Professor Fyfe for our upcoming discussion on 3D Virtual Construction of Historical Architecture:

Victoria’s Lost Pavilion: Reconstructing the Arts in Digital Space” is a project initiated by faculty, researchers, students, and staff from different departments at North Carolina State University, with the purpose of building a virtual reconstruction of Queen Victoria’s Buckingham Palace garden pavilion. Built in 1842, and subsequently demolished in 1928, Queen Victoria’s Pavilion had a distinct architectural and artistic presence, due to its interesting mix of fresco paintings, elaborate ceiling and floor designs, and bas-relief figures.

According to the project’s blog (http://pavilion.wordpress.ncsu.edu/blog/), the team endeavors to accurately recreate the historical building of the Pavilion in a virtual space, and also to expose the “curious set of contradictions it embodies, the possibilities of overlapping and competing interpretations about what and how it represents” (February 2014 Archive). The focus on the creative and research potential of the digital model is what makes this project a true digital humanities endeavor. As Diane Favro observes in her article on Digital Immersive Reconstructions of Historical Environments, the “real value of historical simulations lies not in the representations themselves, but in the process of their creation and in the subsequent experiments now possible to be conducted within the simulated environments (Favro, 276)”.

Conversely, the team of the Victoria’s Lost Pavilion professes an interest in using “the digital not to idealize the past in high fidelity, but to expose the interconnected layers of significance and model competing stories about what it means” (February 2014 Archive). The very process of making the digital model constitutes in itself a means of creating and accumulating knowledge, by underlining “a mix of historical and methodological and technical problems” (February 2014 Archive).

Like with any grand-scale humanities computing project, periodical short-term outcomes have to be delivered in advance of a final, completed product. For Victoria’s Pavilion, this moment came in the summer of 2014, when the team had to create a poster for a Digital Humanities Summer Institute presentation; they ended up using a half-built virtual model of the Pavilion building, an “elegant scaffolding”, that represented the preliminary stages of the digital reconstruction.

The Victoria’s Lost Pavilion project is an important endeavor not only for the specific outcomes it sets to accomplish (the reconstruction of a lost historical monument), but also for the questions it dares to ask, the challenges it wants to surmount and the lessons its team is willing to learn in the process.



2 thoughts on “On Victoria’s Lost Pavilion Project”

  1. Thanks very much for this apt summary. It’s been fascinating to realize the shared interests among cultural and architectural historians in the methodologies and implications of modeling the past, as you point out above.

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