michael naimark




UNESCO Project Heritage Meeting, Paris

Michael Naimark


Monday afternoon I met with Pascal Bonafoux, the new Director of UNESCO's "Project Heritage 2001" in Paris. Project Heritage is an ambitious project to photo-document the ~350 UNESCO-designated "World Heritage Sites" over the next seven years. The sites are both natural and cultural, and the list would make Indiana Jones drool. Last February Ricky Leacock and I met with the former Director (see "Trip Report #2 - 2 days in Paris" 2/17/93). This was a bit of a restart, but the message was the same: if you're going to be documenting the wonders of the world, you may wish to consider methods for interactive, immersive, and modelling purposes as a compliment to still and moving images.

Mr. Bonafoux showed me what they've done so far, a handsome series of photographic portfolios, each with 100 to 500 still images. By the end of this year they will have completed about 21 sites (their goal was 30 for the first year and 50 each year thereafter, but the guard-changing slowed things down a bit). Each project is primarily the work of one content expert and one photographer. Typically the photographer spends one or two months on location; usually the content expert doesn't go.

He also described one of the longterm goals of the project: in collaboration with French Telecom, to have all of their images available in high resolution via phoneline. The French Telecom people recently produced an interactive photo CD of some of the material.

I showed him a videotape of, among other things, various moviemaps and some of the field recording and modelling work from Banff (I filmed in the three World Heritage Sites in Alberta).

I said that Interval is interested in collaborators, and that many of us prefer working with meaningful content rather than filming in our parking lot. I also said that I had no specific ideas and that we were in no particular hurry.

He said that he has some freedom and would very much like to experiment. Then he suggested perhaps we consider a joint project at one of their sites scheduled to be filmed next year.

He suggested the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg. I laughed: the Hermitage was the one place (other than the Stanford Mall) Apple sent their Navigable Movie researchers a few years ago to film some tests. (Suffice it to say I know these folks pretty well.) These have been highly publized demos. He knew about this work.

I suggested perhaps considering two sites, and indoor/architecture/urban one and an outdoor/natural/remote one.

He said the list of next year's sites will be complete in about a week and promised to fax it to us.

We both agreed to think about possibilities of collaboration.

Meanwhile, unlike the former Director, Mr. Bonafoux has an academic appointment, at the University of Paris VIII. It turns out one of his colleagues has been on a couple of panels with me; another colleague was someone I had dinner with the night before. C'est un petit monde.

I have the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in my office. Drop on by if you wish to look at it. It's very cool.