[ISEA2008] Paper: Suzette Worden & Andrew Squelch – Arts and science collaborations for mineralogy and cultural heritage: the social aspects of mineralogical visualisation and representation as knowledge creation connecting physical and virtual worlds


New authoring technologies and presentation media are giving us novel ways of experiencing representations of familiar objects in the physical world. Similar technologies have also extended the long history of scientific visualisation of dynamics, particles and other material not visible to the human eye. These technologies have also provided visual information for the interpretation of conditions at great distances and time in space.

Current science visualisation switches between pictures and numbers or fuses pictures and numbers into a manipulable image. According to Peter Galison the sciences have always been caught in an endless struggle, between dismissing the pictorial and claiming that science was about the visual. (Galison, P. 2002. Images Scatter into Data, Data Gather into Images In Iconoclash, ed. P. Weibel and B. Latour, 300-323 Karlsruhe: ZKM.)

This paper will explore the ambiguity of the visual through a discussion of the use of old and new technologies for the visualisation of rock and mineral samples. We will consider examples of mineralogical visualisation within pioneering European collections of minerals from the early years of the industrial revolution and colonialism and compare them with current 21st century visualisation using digital imaging and 3D stereo display systems.

This contrast of technologies used for mineralogical visualisation, spanning over two centuries, will show how the process of visualisation of minerals and rocks is also a history of wider shifts in scientific knowledge; as the history of ideas and as pragmatic solutions.

The paper will discuss how 3D mineralogical images created within a scientific context for the mining and resources industries can be integrated into an arts and cultural heritage context for a broad-based audience. This study will therefore inform wider considerations of collaborative knowledge production across the arts and sciences.

  • Prof Suzette Worden, Department of Design, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia
  • Dr Andrew Squelch, Department of Exploration Geophysics, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

Full text (PDF) p.  469-471