The Santa Ana Tavela community museum (Museo comunitario) in Oaxaca displays heritage from the customs and traditions of the local community throughout history. The museum site wants to provide the community and interested public with a virtual gallery of stories and objects from Tavela’s rich cultural heritage.

Currently the site includes rich narrative and media about the Museum and the territory, images and 3D views of both contemporary folk art and archaeological artifacts, and is meant as a working prototype for further development.
Prof. Stacie King and her team at Indiana University are partnering with the several institutions to bring the virtual gallery to life and enrich it with more content, thus helping the small local museum – inaugurated two years ago – be known and reach out to a wider public.

Project Team

Indiana University Team
Stacie King, Department of Anthropology, Associate Professor
Kara Berkshire, undergradate student
Sarah Monson, graduate student in Anthropology

CoDA Team
Elena Toffalori, Web Developer
Kelley Shanahan, Content Specialist, Services Manager

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The Santa Ana Tavela museum is linked to the territory through its involvement with NGO Unión de Museos Comunitarios de Oaxaca and its Red de Museos Comunitarios de América, a network supporting and fostering local communities’ independence in managing their own heritage and making their voices heard through their local Museums.

The virtual gallery is still under development: two first rounds of grant funding, in 2013 and 2015, provided King’s team training in getting 3D scanned objects ready for the web and preparing a prototype website. Some of these 3D objects are shown on the site collection, a first time in


The Challenge

The Santa Ana Tavela virtual gallery was a new experience to the CoDA team in many ways. Integration of interactive 3D objects together with images, videos and documents is core to this project’s history and practice. Also, content had to be primarily in Spanish – but with an English translation available, allowing parallel navigation paths through the collection and Museum information pages. In a more familiar range, for future updates the team needed a streamlined process for digital publication that didn’t preclude the possibility to open up the archive to the community itself for contributing ideas and traditional knowledge.

The Solution

With the Indiana University team, we brainstormed archival and publication process that integrates with their 3D acquisition workflow. Since most of the 3D views are hosted on the online 3D repository Sketchfab, we were able to integrate them as digital heritage items in a site, allowing for proper contextualization and attribution through metadata, as well as building relationships between collection items. The whole site appearance, from tiered menus to pages and collections, was custom structured for a bilingual audience. Collections and cultural protocols are in place to allow for differential access and community engagement in the future phases of the project.

According to the call to action of the Unión, a community museum is “an instrument of action organized by indigenous and mestizo communities alike, who are looking to manage their own cultural patrimony themselves, for the purpose of valuing the past and constructing their own future”.

From the Welcome page on the site, “About the Museum”

When CoDA met the Indiana University team, the narratives and collections were extremely structured and rich, which allowed us to get the site set up and content staged in a quick sprint.

The team moved on to field season in Mexico – and the project is currently applying for further funding.

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