Essay
World Heritage Media Art Enables Cultural Heritages Digitally Accessible
by Lee Changkeun Director of the Korea Cultural Heritage Association of Digital Conservation, PhD in Arts Management
Digital Heritage connects yesterday and today, and lights up tomorrow

The National Museum of Korea’s newlyopened Immersive Digital Gallery successfully attracted many young people to the museum.
Its impressive and interactive displays seem to appeal to Millennials and Generation Z. We now live in the era when collections kept away in the museum storage can be brought to life digitally for the public’s enjoyment.
Immersive content, made possible by the 4th Industrial Revolution’s cuttingedge technology, provides unique cultural experiences and have been adopted by more and more national, public and private museums and galleries. ‘Three Innovation Strategies for the Content Industry’ announced by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in September 2019 sparked such museum innovation. The immersive content is a combination of multisensory experience and interactive technologies at its core. Immersive content is a specialized service that consumers can easily access and enjoy in the 5G mobile networks and is a promising industry with the potential to grow into a large-scale market. Since 2021, metaverse and digital transformation have exploded across the country, alongside VR, AR, MR, highresolution graphics, holograms and projection mapping.

국립중앙박물관 디지털 실감 영상관 전시 Immersive Digital Gallery at the National Museum of Korea

Since 2021, the ‘Digital Transformation of Cultural Heritage’ has been accelerating in order to support management, conservation and protection of cultural heritage. In 2003, UNESCO adopted ‘the Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage’ stating that digital heritage should consist of unique resources of human knowledge and expression.
It states that ‘digital heritage embraces cultural, educational, scientific and administrative resources, as well as technical, legal, medical and other kinds of information created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue recourses.’ In other words, digital heritage is referred to as a comprehensive approach to digitally preserving, studying and optimizing tangible and intangible cultural heritage as well as distributing it as digital content. The very first digital cultural heritage project in South Korea traces back to 1991 and the project ‘Restoration of the West Pagoda at Mireuksa Temple Site in Iksan’ opened up the era of digital heritage. The 1999 publication of ‘The International Cultural Tourism Charter’ marks the first attempt to develop cultural heritage with the ability to generate cultural tourism activities while continuing to conserve and safeguard it.
Furthermore, the ‘Charter on the Preservation of Digital Heritage’ (2003) contributed to broadening the concept of cultural heritage. In particular, the recent emergence of immersive content provides a lifelike experience while extended reality technology enhances interactive engagement, all of which contributed to the rapid progress of the digital cultural heritage.

수원화성 세계유산 미디어아트쇼 중 미디어파사드 A digital walking tour at the Media Art Show in the Gongsanseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site

In his doctoral dissertation in 2021, Dr Park Jin-ho, a cultural heritage digital restoration specialist, divides digital cultural heritage into five categories: information delivery, digital restoration, immersive experience, media art and metaverse for future digital cultural heritage. The World Heritage Media Art project by the Cultural Heritage Administration is a good example of the media art type of digital cultural heritage. The project aims to use the latest technology to uncover new qualities in outdoor cultural heritage and was mostly carried out in the form of digital walk and festival. The project is part of the Cultural Heritage Administration’s digital accessibility program, which was started in 2021 to promote universal values of the world heritage sites through the use of ICT. Although it is state-funded, local governments must carry out a public bidding process. Depending on the characteristics of each heritage site, festival usually includes a digital walking tour, immersive content, media façade and interactive art as well as a night walk that takes place at the actual heritage site throughout the festival. Beginning with the Beopjusa Temple in Songnisan (Boeun) last year and the continuation with buyeo and Hwaseong Fortress (Suwon), these five UNESCO heritage sites provided a unique opportunity to explore the cultural heritage in a way which was not possible previously.

공산성 세계유산 미디어아트쇼 중 디지털 워킹투어 A digital walking tour at the Media Art Show in the Gongsanseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site

World Heritage Media Art presented hightech heritage that combines a mix of cultural heritages, arts and ICT to visitors who were frustrated with social distancing and gave a dose of cultural vaccine to help bring healing to everyday life. Most importantly, all events ensured there is no direct contact, confined spaces and overcrowding to minimize any risk of COVID-19 infection and also adopted safety precautions such as the alternative usage of internet transmission, open-air outdoor installations and crowd segregation.
In its first year of launch in 2021, all five World Heritage Media Art installations across the country introduced outdoor night-time activities as a means to cope with the COVID-19 crisis and suggested unconventional ways to enjoy cultural heritage in the new normal. Site-specific content with high tourism potential have helped to boost local economy and tourism and consequently leads to the development of cultural heritage tourism with which ultimately rejuvenated local business. Furthermore, scenic landscapes of each heritage site were posted online as part of the post-pandemic international marketing efforts to attract overseas tourists, virtually bringing the K-heritage into the homes of many Korean fans around the world.
This year marks the second year of World Heritage Media Art and the budget and projects have been extended to a total of eight locations. The four regions – Baekje Historic Areas (Gongju, Buyeo, Iksan) and Hwaseong Fortress (Suwon) – have been included since last year and four additional regions have been added: the Dolmen Site (Gochang), Tongdosa Temple (Yangsan), Namgye Seowon (Hamyang), Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (Jejudo Island).
For the first time ever, Gochang Dolmen Site, Namgye Seowon and Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes will be transformed into media art.
Among Sansa – Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea, Tongdosa Temple was selected to showcase media art. At these eight historical sites, World Heritage Media Art will welcome the general public and invite them to engage with the contemporary interactive content.
The traditional ‘protection of original state’ paradigm of cultural heritage policy has been extended to include ‘value expansion’ for the enjoyment and appreciation of a wider community. Above all, cultural heritage has been playing a significant role in bringing recovery and revitalization of the local community resulting in a boost to the local economy. This demonstrates the importance which immersive content and World Heritage Media Art have in digital heritage.

익산 미륵사지 미디어아트쇼 중 드론라이트쇼 Drone light show at Iksan Mireuksa Temple during the Media Art Show

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