Duke University professor Paul B. Jaskot is giving a lecture on Tuesday, March 16, about his use of digital tools to study architecture in the Krakow Ghetto during Nazi occupation.
The event will be presented by the UNC Department of Art and Art History. Jaskot directs the Wired! Lab for Digital Art History and Visual Culture at Duke, where the research that will be featured in his lecture was conducted.
“We are trying to explore how the built-in environment helps us explain an integrated history of the Holocaust,” Jaskot said.
Jaskot will emphasize the connection between the architecture, Nazi culture and the escalation of the Holocaust. By connecting these different factors into one study, Jaskot aims to describe the factors leading to genocide in a detailed and nuanced way.
“The role of culture in getting to the Holocaust is recognized, but not necessarily explored,” Jaskot said. “It’s the centrality of culture to the political goals that require us to look at those examples of culture that help us explain the development of these events.”
Jaskot’s methods of study include virtual models of architecture in the ghetto and a database of sources documenting forced Jewish labor, both of which fall under the larger umbrella of the digital humanities. There is debate over the definition of the digital humanities — as they have developed, many different fields have adopted digital tools, making an overarching definition too generalized.
JJ Bauer, a teaching assistant professor at UNC, teaches multiple courses concerning the application of digital humanities in historical architecture, specifically in the United States and Europe. She thinks the digital humanities are an important discipline in the study of human cultures, much like Jaskot’s use of technology in Krakow.
“3D models of lost architecture, lost sculptures and lost cities are created as a research tool, as a way to ask and answer questions that would have been more challenging without the availability of that tool,” Bauer said.
At the current level of development, the applications of the digital humanities are limited. Work involving categorization can be done just as easily by a trained human, and model construction is mostly manual, not automated.
Bauer believes these new methods of study are valuable, but she predicts that the discipline will remain human-driven.
“In the future, I think that we will have a broader type of research that includes digital humanities as a possibility, but it won’t necessarily be the only way art history research happens,” Bauer said.
Jaskot’s work is emblematic of the continued focus on diversity in the study of art history. The goal of the project is to understand how an atrocity like the Holocaust could happen by examining architecture and Nazi culture, allowing Jaskot to examine the events from multiple points of view.
An important role of the digital humanities is the preservation of lost culture, which in turn increases diversity and the depth of representation in different cultures. Daniel Sherman, a distinguished professor in the art and art history department at UNC, said he thinks that increasing diversity in the study of art history is necessary to expand the scope of the discipline.
“Helping people find their voice, broaden their understanding of the world and to see things differently is what matters,” Sherman said.
Sherman said the study of art history is furthered by a diverse range of perspectives — without diversity, art history is not as colorful.
“Art history has been immeasurably enriched by exploring creative expression all over the world,” Sherman said.
To register for the event, go to www.arts.unc.edu/events. Registration closes on March 15 at 5:00 pm.
To get the day’s news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.