Chair's Medal for Simulation and Visualisation 2022

MSc Heritage Visualisation School of Simulation & Visualisation

Monika Keenan (She / Her)

I am originally from Australia, though before moving to Glasgow I travelled extensively and spent the last seven years living in Germany.

After focussing on the history of conservation of the built heritage in my previous MA at the Humboldt University in Berlin, I was excited to complement my knowledge by pursuing skills in digital heritage.

I am interested in the possibilities for Augmented and Virtual Reality in the heritage sector, and the implications of digital technologies for tourism, monument protection and representation, and public engagement with historic environments and history itself.

My dissertation project addressed some of the issues that arise in the use of digital technologies in heritage interpretation, such as the accessibility of these technologies for people who do not possess the technical skills or equipment required, as well as people who may face cognitive or physical barriers to engaging with digital heritage.



Transparent Augmented Reality Display – Dissertation Project
Virtual Reality Cave Painting
The Many Lives of a Sunstone
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Transparent Augmented Reality Display – Dissertation Project

For this project I developed a static, transparent Augmented Reality (AR) display device.

AR has particular affordances in the field of cultural heritage. It can facilitate engagement by allowing users to view or interact with heritage sites or objects that may be fragile, or may even no longer exist. In this way AR can help to re-contextualise heritage. However, inclusive design must be a priority to ensure physical and cognitive access to digital heritage.

For my dissertation project, I designed and constructed a transparent display device and created an installation of digital visualisations. I used the Jordanhill Cross at Govan Old Parish Church as a case study to demonstrate this technique. The Jordanhill Cross is an example of an Early Medieval standing cross, though only the base remains. However, a replica of the Jordanhill Cross stands outside Govan Old and has been completed with a cross head to show what the cross may have looked like.

Using photogrammetry, I created a digital model of the Jordanhill Cross. The moss was cleaned off the model and the carvings were reconstructed. Then the cross head was digitally coloured. I produced several versions of the digital model, one monochrome and two polychrome, to highlight the speculative and subjective nature of many heritage visualisations. The three versions of the cross head were then combined in a short animation.

These visualisations were displayed on the AR device on site at Govan Old Parish Church, through which the existing stone base is still visible, to re-contextualise hypothetical historical possibilities. Though I chose to use digital colourisations for this project, this was only one option. The device could be used to show possible versions of the design of the cross head, possible carvings, or even possible changes to the cross over time.

This device allows multiple viewers to experience a mixed reality installation simultaneously, as well as removes barriers to access such as technical illiteracy or the cost of device ownership.

Three Visualisations of the Jordanhill Cross Head

The Jordanhill Cross

Left is the original cross-shaft inside Govan Old Parish Church and right is the replica with the cross head outside the church

Display on site

Augmented Reality Display Screen at Govan Old

Inclusive Viewing

Viewing the display from a seated position to improve accessibility

Virtual Reality Cave Painting

This is a VR application which allows a user to make their own cave painting.

Using Unity and Oculus Quest, I made a short VR experience. When calibrated correctly, the wall on which the user can paint handprints corresponds to a physical wall in the real world. This means that when the user reaches out and touches a wall, they leave a handprint.

The VR application uses the atmospheric lighting from the burning fires, as well as the sound of drumming within the cave to heighten the visceral experience.

Aligning a physical wall with the virtual wall of the cave also helps to incorporate the physical world into the virtual experience and improve embodiment.

The VR experience was also just a lot of fun!

The Virtual Cave

Two handprints already on the wall act as a prompt for the user

Touching the wall

Making handprints on the wall of the cave

Cave painting

The cave


The cave wall

The handprints made by the user can be seen on the wall

The Many Lives of a Sunstone

The Many Lives of a Sunstone is a short film about the Sunstone, one of the Govan Stones. The film is the product of a group project. Each group member was responsible for different elements in the production, though the script was co-written and all group members were involved in data capture and processing using photogrammetry, laser scanning and RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging).

We approached our project by looking at the idea of memory, the passing of time, transience and the multiple lives the stone has led. The narrative embodies the notion of an object’s biography. There is humour and emotion in the existentialism expressed in the story of the stone.

I used Unity to create atmospheric scenes within the church and churchyard. These scenes employ laser scan data of Govan Old in the form of point clouds, as well as photogrammetric models of the three standing cross-shafts. I used animation techniques to show the changing landscape of Govan and the development of the cemetery as it appears in the present day. Together with another student, we combined footage of the RTI data with animation to depict the passing of time, which was a novel way to incorporate RTI data in a creative output.


The Many Lives of a Sunstone

The Sunstone shown in its current location, inside Govan Old


Making use of RTI data to show the passing of time

An atmospheric scene

The Sunstone is shown here with other cross-shafts inside the church

The Churchyard

The changing landscape as well as the changing role of the Sunstone is depicted here


The Sunstone is excavated


This Unity game was created with a partner, Chloe Mcmahon, and demonstrates how digital technology might be used in the heritage sector.

The game deals with Roman mosaics and operates in two phases. It is set in the ruins of an ancient Roman domus. The first phase is a search-and-find phase in which the user searches around the environment, moving rocks and broken fragments of the ruins, and collects the missing fragments of the floor mosaic, which are added to their inventory. With each piece the user gets some information about this topic, such as where great examples of mosaics can be seen and how they were made. After collecting all the missing pieces, the user can move on to the second phase, a puzzle assembly phase. Here the user picks up and rotates each piece and places it in the correct spot.

The game reflects an archaeological process through the two phases, as the user must first find and then reassemble the mosaic, learning as they go, as in a real archaeological context. We created a a simple but engaging game targeting a young audience that could be utilised by museums or heritage organisations to facilitate learning. We used music, lighting and the design of the game environment to evoke the sense of rediscovering something previously lost to time.

The scene when the game begins

The information pop-up when the user finds a puzzle piece

Moving on to the second phase

Assembling the mosaic

Placing the final piece

Searching for fragments in the environment

The inventoried pieces already found by the user

An explanation of phase two

The puzzle base lights up to help the user fit the pieces

The puzzle, and the game completed

After completing the puzzle the user is given some information about the mosaic depicted, while an animation of the mosaic itself shows the boat being rowed and bobbing in the water

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Using reference material such as architectural sketches, satellite images and my own photographs, I created this model of the entrance to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in 3DS Max. The rest of the building was completed as a block model. The entrance was finished using custom-made textures.