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UC Design Team Uncovers the Dirt on Midea

Date: Nov. 14, 2001
By: Keesha Nickison
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Archive: General News

For the last sixteen years, UC Professor of Classics Gisela Walberg has been uncovering another world. Walberg has unveiled the ancient civilization of Midea, Greece, and a team of professors and graphic design students has now transformed her findings into a virtual reality tour of life, as it was lived 3,300 years ago. scenes from tour

"I went to Midea for the first time as a very new student during my first year as an undergraduate," said Walberg. "When I saw the site and took part in an excavation, I thought, 'I would love to go back and excavate more of Midea.'" Certainly the virtual tour, entitled The Dirt on Midea, is leading others to fall in love with the marvel of Greece as Walberg did. From the massive citadel wall, to the awe-inspiring architecture, to the hidden secrets of the Bronze Age, who could resist the place where modern civilization began?

The Dirt on Midea is an interactive CD-ROM co-produced by the Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS) and the UC School of Design, both housed in the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). It has just received the prestigious Chris Award from the Columbus International Film and Video Festival. The "Chris," a bronze statuette, is the highest award given by the festival, which attracts hundreds of entrants each year from around the world, mainly documentaries and media projects in the humanities. scenes from tour

"I was very, very happy, of course," Walberg said of the honor. "I was extremely impressed," she said, "by how easily and quickly the students picked up what I taught and translated that into an exhibition and visual presentation." Walberg said the virtual tour and other materials produced by the group bring her extensive research to life. "I saw another aspect of my work. It's liberating to communicate it in a different way. With the help of all those involved, I think I've been able to communicate the results of this excavation and make it accessible to a much wider range of people."

The CD-ROM is only a small part of what was created by the senior design class. "The group's primary objective was the design of an educational exhibition. This exhibition will be used by Gisela Walberg at some major archaeological conferences in the near future," according to Robert Probst, professor of graphic design and coordinator of the senior capstone class. "Projects of this kind have become a yearly event in the School of Design senior capstone experience," he said. The exhibit consists of a dozen kiosk-like structures that "tell the story of Midea," according to Probst, through 8' panels laminated with laser-printed surfaces and bronze edges. Each kiosk communicates a different topic through "interesting headlines and explanatory text, eye catching photographic images of artifacts, expressive graphics and illustrations, statistical maps, and informative graphs and charts," said Probst. scenes from tour

John Hancock, professor of architecture and a project director at CERHAS, advised the group of seven senior graphic design students in the production of what was quite possibly their most challenging project while at UC. "The students were very talented and productive and it was a pleasure to work with them," said Hancock. "It's especially impressive to me that the graphic design senior class collaborates on one big project, and learns teamwork, management, delegation skills, and gets to see a really major thing accomplished." The project provides a "perfect example" of the hands-on experience that can be found in classrooms throughout UC campuses, said Walberg.

Ian Toombs, a graphic design graduate and student manager of the project, confirmed this notion. "The 'know-how' that was needed to complete this project was spread out among all individuals involved. Every one of us had to make a serious effort to understand the technology we were working with, and to communicate it to each other." He added, "I have always been interested in design management, and being the head of the graphic design digital team gave me experience that will apply directly to post graduate work." Toombs recently accepted a position with Interbrand, an international brand design and management firm.

The Dirt on Midea is significant to both the classics field and the design field, according to Walberg and Hancock. For Walberg, the project represents the opening of a "whole new dimension, with new possibilities and new ways of communicating." To Hancock, the experience has meant the creation of a valuable educational tool. The tour offers a much deeper level of understanding that one does not gain simply by looking through a book. "It's an interactive format that causes spatial and visual immersion while carrying rich content and an exploratory feeling."

As a result of their diligent efforts, Walberg and Hancock hope their audience will enjoy a deeper understanding of the rich culture of both ancient and modern Greece. Through the tour, visitors will experience aspects of life and subsistence, such as the economy, societal organization, and administration, as well as plainly human things such as sickness, spiritual beliefs, and similarities and differences between American and Greek societies, according to Walberg. "The exploratory process is in itself fun, we hope," said Hancock. Members of the UC community can obtain free copies of the virtual tour of Midea by contacting John Hancock at

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