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Expanding the Research and Innovation Capacity in Cultural Heritage Virtual Reality Applications

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - eHERITAGE (Expanding the Research and Innovation Capacity in Cultural Heritage Virtual Reality Applications)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2018-10-31

eHERITAGE (‘Expanding the Research and Innovation Capacity in Cultural Heritage Virtual Reality Applications’) is a Coordination and Support project which addresses the “twinning” challenges described in the topic H2020-TWINN-2015 of the Work programme. eHERITAGE's coordinating institution University Transilvania of Brasov (UTBv) will achieve excellence in the field of virtual heritage by twinning with other 2 research centers, Jožef Stefan Institute (JSI) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna from Pisa, Italy.
Given the high touristic potential of Brasov, UTBv’s initiative fits perfectly in the regional innovation strategy for economic growth and prosperity. eHERITAGE participants will collaborate with local authorities for exploiting and disseminating virtual applications in cultural heritage conservation. The measures foreseen in eHERITAGE project will influence the social, economic and cultural environment at regional level, in a multiplicative way, making room for strategic partnerships with other research institutes or with commercial agents.
The general objective of eHERITAGE project is to increase the capacity, quality and extent of the research staff of Transilvania University of Brasov, by establishing strong and sustainable research cooperation schemes with the partners, based on close scientific and social interaction.
In order to achieve this strategic objective, three major operational goals are set:
- INCREASED SCOPE AND COMPETITIVE RESEARCH - UTBv personnel will specialize in a new research field.
- TRAINING and MOBILITY of researchers - UTBv personnel will be involved in events and short exchanges.
- CONTINUOUS R&I EXTENDING - eHERITAGE will create sustainable strategic partnerships with other centers of excellence.
In the first 15 months of the project, eHERITAGE consortium managed to target all 3 objectives. Considerable efforts were spent on achieving all the milestones set for this period:
- MS1 - Project website completed and online was built as a key component of the project. The website holds both public and private information, separated by password protected areas.
- MS2 - Quality, ethics and security forms
The project achieved this milestone by completing the correspondent deliverables (D5.3 Quality assurance plan, D5.4 Ethics assurance plan and D5.5 Security assurance plan).
- MS3 - Improved research profile in the first year

In the last 21 months of the project, eHERITAGE consortium managed to target all 3 objectives and to complete all milestones set for this period:
- MS5 - ASI programme
- MS6 - Improved research profile in the second year
- MS7 - Stage one in the improved partnership profile
- MS8 - Stage two in the improved partnership profile
- MS9 - Improved research profile in the third year
Participating at numerous national and international events, the eHERITAGE project has had an important impact on all participants due to the novelty and importance of our results. Young participants and non-traditional audiences had the chance to see first-hand some of the systems developed by our team during the following events:
- EU Open Day (2018) in Brussels, Belgium (over 5000 participants)
- European Researchers’ Night (2017 and 2018) in Brașov, Romania (over 10000 participants)
- Internet Festival (2017) in Pisa, Italy (over 6000 participants)
- ICIF (2018) in Shenzen, China (over 10000 participants)
Additionally, the project received local and national TV coverage and was presented in various online and offline national and international newspapers.
At the beginning of the project, UTBv had only 3 publications related to the subject of digital heritage. After the first 15 months of the project, members of UTBv participated in several conferences and workshops, interacted with local museums for organizing exhibitions and summer schools and even submitted a new H2020 proposal. Even though the project hasn’t even reach half of its period, quantifiable results can already be seen in the research profile of UTBv. eHERITAGE plans to attract large public and to raise awareness on the selected field of study. Romania's cultural heritage is vast and diverse. However, UNESCO’s World Heritage list on Romania includes only 7 cultural properties: the Churches of Moldavia, the Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains, the Historic Centre of Sighişoara, the Monastery of Horezu, the Villages with Fortified Churches in Transylvania and the Wooden Churches of Maramureş. Aside from these, there are many other cultural and touristic objectives which would greatly benefit from eHERITAGE’s results. From small children to university students, VR equipment and applications present a high attraction degree which in term raises the curiosity and the interest of the users. By creating applications for cultural heritage sites, eHERITAGE contributes to the spread of knowledge in the fields of history and arts, and having a department specialized in these techniques which is based in Romania if the first step in consolidating this research field in the eastern Europe.

During the last two years of the project, we have conducted a several studies in the field of cultural heritage, a few of them being associated with various 3rd party institutions involved in the cultural heritage domain. They became partners with us for future studies and also for future research projects in this domain.
Among the institutions which interacted with eHERITAGE we can list the History Museum of Brașov, the Evangelical Church of Prejmer (UNESCO monument), National College “Andrei Șaguna”, County Library “George Barițiu”, the University “Ovidius” of Constanța, the Museum of History and Archeology of Constanța, the Museum of Archeology from Cecina, the Museum Capitolini of Rome, the Museo di Roma, the National Gallery of Slovenia and the University of Padova.
eHERITAGE also became member of several networks of excellence, associations and organizations such as Europa Nostra, European Association for Digital Humanities (EADH), Future for Religious Heritage (FRH) and the European Network on Cultural Management and Policy (ENCATC). The project was featured in regional, national and international media outlets. Moreover, it was presented as a successful story on the portal of the European Union.