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MARS - Multimedia archaeological research system

Research project I2/AE/212 (Research action I2)

Contract I2/AE/212 :

Duration of the contract :


Partners :

  • Royal Museums for Art and History (Coordinator of the project)
  • Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences 
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa 
  • Aragne 

Description :

Because of their history and their multidisciplinary interest, the archaeological and anthropological collections are physically divided among various federal institutions (FSI´s) but also Community, regional, communal or even private institutions.
Within the FSI´s, the Royal Museums of Art and History (RMAH), the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS) and the Royal Museum of Central Africa (RMCA) share several reference collections, such as those of the sites of Spy or Ishango.

The digitisation of the archaeological collections is thus essential for several reasons :
- These collections are intrinsically unique and irreplaceable, since they are the sole material evidence of a now-vanished humanity.
- The anthropologists and archaeologists are among the researchers of the FSI´s who work most actively on the collections.
- The multidisciplinary approach to the products of excavations entails their physical division within different sections, different FSI´s or even different public and private scientific or museum Institutions. Digitisation is, therefore, the sole realistic method for reconstituting coherent unitary wholes.
- Digitisation of all of the data associated with the objects is also required (field recordings, geological and sedimentary contexts, chemical, biological, physical analyses, etc.).

Nevertheless, the objective of the MARS project is not to follow the fashion of digitisation, nor simply to transpose paper catalogues onto a computer medium. We are seeking a powerful and flexible system which can also serve as a search tool while permitting the link between the databases of analyses, the bibliographic databases and the consultation of all multimedia supports compatible with an Internet access. The developed system must also permit rational management of the collections in terms of conservation, study or loans for exhibitions. The multimedia formats must make it possible to illustrate but also, as far as possible, to preserve the original items by replacing them with their virtual representation. Concretely, the most fragile items would be preserved from intensive manipulations which would accelerate their degradation.

The first phase of the project will make it possible to develop a common technological platform and to test it on one exceptional site (Spy). From a technical point of view, the installation of several servers and the establishment of protocols of cooperation between servers (common research), of synchronisation of the data will be established. The prototype developed and tested with the aid of the Spy site will be validated by a broad public of potential users. Another important task is the creation of an electronic manual explaining the stakes and the technological choices as well as precisely describing the solutions developed within the framework of the pilot application. The fields envisaged are very broad, given the modular, multimedia and «Open source» structure of the project. During the second phase it will be expanded to manuals for installing and configuring the system, either in its entirety or of certain modules.

During the second phase, the pilot application will be extended to new partners coming from Belgian community entities (Universities), regional entities (regional archaeology departments) and entities from the non-commercial sector (local museums, non-profit associations, etc.), but also to foreign partners (National Museum of History and Art of Luxembourg and Neanderthal Museum) who will validate the use of the MARS project outside the FSI´s.

- Contact person (project's coordinator):

Royal Museums of Art and History (KMKG-MRAH)
Nicolas Cauwe
Parc du cinquantenaire 10 / Jubelpark
1000 Bruxelles / Brussel
Tel:02 741 73 60
Fax:02 734 07 13


Coördinator Royal Museums of Art and History (KMKG-MRAH)

Partner 1 Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (KBIN-IRSNB)

Partner 2 Royal Museum for Central Africa (KMMA-MRAC)

Partner 3 Société Aragne

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