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Medieval History in Virtual Worlds

The usage of virtual worlds for simulating history has been little discussed although projects in design schools have repeatedly used “the medieval world” to teaching the technicalities.

Simulating History in Virtual Worlds
By Nicola Lercari
In: Handbook on 3D3C Platforms
Part of the series Progress in IS pp 337-352


Handbook on 3c3d platforms coverThe usage of virtual worlds for simulating history has been little discussed, particularly when 3D3C worlds present scientifically accurate visualization of the past or re-enact specific socio-cultural dynamics and historical events. This chapter ponders the value of virtual worlds as tools for historical research and seeks answers to research questions such as:

does social interaction within a historical virtual world change the way we perceive or remember our heritage?

How can different viewpoints on history—in terms of class, race, ethnicity, and gender—be represented in a historical virtual world? What is the power of the visualization of the past on 3D3C worlds’ users?

This chapter explores the production of knowledge of the past and digital memory in virtual worlds and strives to demonstrate that these media are cultural models capable of conveying new information about our heritage and societies.


Nicola Lercari, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of World Heritage at the University of California Merced where he investigates 3D mapping and remote sensing technologies applied to cultural and natural heritage, cross-media systems for museums, and the analytical and interpretative role of the visualization of the past. Nicola received his Ph.D. in History and Computing from the University of Bologna, Italy with a dissertation on public history and the visualization of medieval urban spaces. Nicola has worked on several digital humanities initiatives both in Italy (CINECA supercomputing center and University of Bologna) and in the United States. Nicola also co-founded the Dig@Lab, a digital archaeology initiative at Duke University. Nicola takes part in the international research projects 3D – Digging at Çatalhöyük (excavation and digital documentation of a Neolithic city in Central Anatolia) as supervisor for laser scanning, digital documentation, and real-time visualization.