Posted to the Ethnos Project by on January 28th, 2014

This article examines how digital heritage, in the form of 3D digital objects, fits into particular discourses around identity, ancestrality and cultural transmission in Melanesia. Through an ethnographic analysis of digital heritage use amongst the Nalik community in New Ireland (Papua New Guinea), it demonstrates how digital heritage is understood not in terms of deceit and a loss of authenticity, but instead, towards an understanding of authenticity in terms of completeness and integrity. A notion of completeness and integrity, I argue, has the effect of creating an authentic experience of the past for Nalik communities by bringing back museum objects (‘old’ objects) that have been dispersed amongst museums and heritage institutions worldwide. In tracing out the operations and effects of how a Melanesian community engages with 3D digital objects, this article offers unique ethnographic insights into digital heritage in ways that challenge widely-held assumptions about the heightened value placed on the original object over its digital counterpart.

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