I was so disappointed when I finally had to make the decision to cancel my upcoming trip to Russia due to the spread of the coronavirus. I had been scheduled to spend two weeks as a Visiting Lecturer at ITMO University, where I am the Co-Director of the DH Research Center. I was meant to teach a module on Three-Dimensional and Spatial Approaches to Digital Humanities Narratives, as part of ITMO’s newly-launched international Master’s program in Data, Culture, and Visualization. Alas, for the moment that will have to be postponed for the moment. Hopefully, we can find a time during the summer or fall after global concerns have died down to find a time for me to come teach the course.

I was doubly disappointed because I was looking forward to reconnecting with two other colleagues in St. Petersburg, Pavel Lurje, Head of the Section of Central Asia, Caucasus and Crimea in the Oriental Department of the State Hermitage Museum, and Larisa Zolotova, a 3D designer and jewelry maker who works on 3D scanning and modeling at the Hermitage. I collaborated with Pavel and Larisa on the digital exhibition The Sodgians: Influencers on the Silk Roads and we are hoping to work together again on another project between the Hermitage and Freer|Sackler Asian Art Galleries of the Smithsonian. This new endeavor is the development of a VR experience of the Blue Hall that was excavated during digs at Panjikent, Tajikistan. The Hermitage has a number of murals, including the beautiful Rustam Cycle, from the Blue Hall as well as a number of other pieces of material culture and adornment. The hope is that through work at the two museums and in courses with students at ITMO and NYU we can develop a 3D immersive narrative of the objects that cannot be brought together physically but have a rich story to tell in combination.

I’m sure to be coming back to St. Petersburg and continuing all these collaborations. I’ll be sure to keep things updated here about that.