Launch of Doctoral College Visual Heritage
TU Wien and UAS St. Pölten cooperate to offer a new doctoral program on the preservation of cultural heritage through digital technologies.
On February 1, 2023, the new Visual Heritage Doctoral Program was officially launched at TU Wien’s TUtheSky. “Without an understanding of our history, we cannot build a future. Making history accessible through innovative technologies is at the heart of this interdisciplinary doctoral program. We are proud to not only train the next generation of experts, but to actively shape the future of digital cultural preservation,” says Gerti Kappel, Dean of TU Wien Informatics, at the opening ceremony.
The program is set to launch as a unique collaboration between the University of Applied Sciences St. Pölten and TU Wien. Supported within the framework of the FWF’s doc.funds.connect program and in cooperation with the CDG, this interdisciplinary initiative will explore the interfaces between visual analytics, computer vision, and cultural heritage over a period of four years. “Computer-aided analysis of digitalized visual media such as historical photographs and amateur films, linking them with the knowledge of experts and gaining insights from them represents great added value for society,” explains Wolfgang Aigner, coordinator of the program at UAS St. Pölten. Co-coordinator of the program at TU Wien is Silvia Miksch, Director of the Centre for Visual Analytics Science and Technology (CVAST) and Head of our Research Unit for Visual Analytics.
“There are no borders in science,” TU Wien Rector Jens Schneider stated during his opening address, “the greatest innovations often arise at the interfaces between disciplines. The combination of informatics with the preservation of cultural heritage is ideal, especially in Vienna. The project can result in a genuine time machine that will enable people to immerse themselves in times long past. And that is very important: in order to develop a plan of where we want to go, we need to know where we come from. We are proud that our Faculty with the highest international reputation, together with our partner UAS St. Pölten, has been able to put together a top-class group of scientists on this forward-looking topic thanks to the doc.funds.connect-program. I am very much looking forward to the results.”
Five PhD positions can be filled in the program. Four have already been awarded: Tingyu Lin, Nidham Tekaya, Michaela Tuscher, and Markus Passecker will start their research within the new program. “This is the first doctoral program that will take place to a large extent in Lower Austria. We are very pleased about this cooperative doctoral program. It opens up the opportunity for our researchers to work intensively on the combination of basic research and applied research,” says Hannes Raffaseder, Managing Director of UAS St. Pölten.
From Past to Present
In order to capture the content of visual media and gain new insights, methods are needed that combine efficient automated data analysis with the knowledge of experts in the field. Visual Heritage investigates approaches to automated image analysis and visualization in order to open up historical media collections, including historical photographs and amateur films. A core aspect of this program is the interdisciplinary approach between computer science and the humanities. It seeks to close basic and applied research gaps through an innovative combination of human-in-the-loop computer vision and visual analytics. This approach is expected to advance interactive analysis, exploration, and presentation of historical visual media collections.
Students get the unique opportunity to engage in problem-driven research, complementing each other in terms of visual and computational methods – both at TU Wien Informatics and UAS St. Pölten. They will work with real users, real data, and real services, allowing them to connect real-world requirements to solutions. This synergy between applied and basic research, combined with the international visibility of Austrian researchers in visual computing, adds significant value to the program.
The doctoral college’s faculty comprises seven high-profile researchers from UAS St. Pölten and TU Wien Informatics at different career levels. The associate faculty consists of four cultural heritage experts, and the scientific advisory board includes two further cultural heritage experts as well as three experts from visual computing. Each student will spend at least six months at the other institution, immersing themselves in different research organizations on a daily basis.