[ISEA2014] Paper: Seth Thompson – The Jazeera Al Hamra Digital Heritage Project: A Model for Digitally Preserving the Heritage of the Arabian Peninsula


The digital environment offers an opportunity to establish a museum model that supports contemporary museum thought in regard to: collective memory strategies; inclusivity; and equity of tangible and intangible culture heritage. Al Jazeera Al Hamra, a former coastal village in Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates, was abandoned at the time of the formation of the country in the late 1960s and 1970s. It is considered one of the last traditional fishing and pearl diving villages in the nation. As the buildings are now only remnants of a time past, not only does the architecture need to be documented and mapped, but also the stories and traditions of the people who once lived there need to be recorded. Creating a Web‑based virtual environment, which documents both the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Al Jazeera Al Hamra can provide a cohesive physical and social record of a traditional fishing and pearling village for future generations after the buildings and the people who had inhabited the town are gone. In addition to presenting an intuitive and relatively inexpensive model to implement for digitally preserving and re‑presenting tangible and intangible cultural heritage using Al Jazeera Al Hamra, an at‑risk site, this paper will address: the kinds of “artifacts” that are to be collected and cataloged. It will also take into consideration the project’s long term digital sustainability and show how this computer‑based participatory model falls within the guise of socially engaged art. The essay will conclude with practical, useful recommendations to inform current and future initiatives in preserving tangible and intangible heritage using digital media within the Arabian Peninsula region and beyond.

  • Seth Thompson, American University of Sharjah, AE, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Design at the American University of Sharjah. He is a media artist and writer involved in documenting and interpreting art, design and culture through print and online presentations. His research interests and practice primarily focuses on the interpretation and representation of visual culture and heritage using panoramic imaging and hypermedia systems. Media art history with special emphasis on the panorama plays an integral role in this theoretical and practice‑based investigation. Thompson holds a BFA in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado, an MA in Visual Arts Administration from New York University and an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College. He is a member of the International Art Critics Association and has lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates since 2006.

Full text (PDF) p. 189-196