Team receives grant to recreate the 'sound signature' of cultural heritage sites

(March 18, 2019)

Advanced audio technologies being developed are helping to preserve the unique sounds of historic sites from recording studios in Nashville, Tenn., to a pre-Columbian archeological site in Peru.

Sungyoung Kim, an associate professor of audio engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology, is leading a team of researchers to develop a set of tools using advanced augmented and virtual reality technology to preserve and replicate the acoustics of historical venues. The project would bring attention to the overlooked work in preserving aural heritage.

The research project focuses on several areas or specific buildings designated as landmarks and will be developed as case studies:

  • American recording studios in Nashville's Historic Music Row, designated in 2015 by the National trust for Historic Preservation, as an example of a small room venue
  • The former Rochester Savings Bank, located in Rochester, N.Y., and listed on the National Register of Historic Places with historical significance for art, architecture and commerce, as an example of large and public space acoustics
  • The 3,000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site at Chavín de Huántar, Peru, one of the best-preserved examples of pre-Columbian architecture in the Americas, an intersection of archaeology, ancient American prehistory and interior architecture

"These culturally distinct and diverse spaces provide distinct types of aural environments that demonstrate the extensibility of our method," Kim said. "The goal of this NEH program, and our research and development, is to build a standard methodology of culture preservation and digital access for non-expert humanities researchers. Through these case studies, we want to form a scalable method to capture and reproduce any important aural heritage."

The team received a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for $347,702 for "A scalable method for digital preservation and access to aural heritage" to focus on spaces considered culturally, architecturally and temporally distinct examples of rare aural heritage. Researchers on the team include Doyuen Ko, associate professor of audio engineering at Belmont University in Nashville, and Miriam Kolar of Amherst College, where she is the Five College Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities.

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