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Our team comprises a group of researchers at the University of Essex, an advisory board and corporate partners. To contact the team directly, please email

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Senior Research Officer

Senior Research Officer

Project Officer

Principal Collaborators

The Virtual Experience Company has been developing digital heritage projects since 1999 and has a wide portfolio of projects extending across the UK, Europe, the MENA region and sub-Saharan Africa. Our team includes a wide range of specialists from the fields of academia and the computer games industry. In this project we are exploring the application of the latest technologies, including drone-acquired data, web and games engine applications.

ThinkSee3D is a successful 3D digital heritage business, covering every aspect of 3D digital heritage from 3D scanning, 3D modelling, 3D printing through to VR production and animation. ThinkSee3D have delivered over 200 projects to date, for many leading museums and universities including the British Museum, the V&A, NMS, Oxford, Cambridge and UCL. ThinkSee3D’s involvement in REPLACE is to develop realistic & engaging 3D virtual reality visualisations of the various places under study.

Other Collaborators

Advisory Board

Gina Yannitell Reinhardt

University of Essex

John Preston

University of Essex

Marie Louise Stig Sorensen

University of Cambridge

Mario Santana Quintero

Carlton University, Canada / ICOMOS

Rohit Jigyasu


Catherine Forbes

GML Heritage

Dacia Viejo Rose

University of Cambridge

Antonello Alici

Università Politecnica delle Marche

Dr Paola Di Giuseppantonio Di Franco – Principal Investigator

The PI for the project, Paola is a UKRI Future Leader Fellow (Round 6) & senior lecturer in Heritage and Digital Humanities. Her research combines material culture, heritage, & cognitive science to explore how new technologies impact heritage making processes and the interpretation processes of the past. Her previous fellowships include a Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowship at the University of Cambridge & an Eastern ARC fellowship. These grants, among others, have allowed for the development of two research strands; One line of research studies the role new technologies play in enhancing processes of meaning making & interaction with past material culture.

Paola’s other focusses concern collaboration with small/medium enterprises & educators to study how novel pedagogies and 3D technologies can be combined to enhance young people’s engagement with their heritage in conflict afflicted countries. Paola has co-developed a project in Tunis supported by the British Council Cultural Protection Fund, & is now developing similar projects in Syria, Lebanon and Uganda in collaboration with the University of Cambridge, Virtual Experience Company & the Rambourg Foundation.

Paola has been recognised for developing both practise based and theoretical approaches to research. She has recently been awarded a BAFTSS Practice Research Innovation award for my co-directed film “Italia Terremotata”, which tells the story of resilient communities in post-earthquake Italy. REPLACE builds on this research, and both strands of Paola’s work will be informed by this project.

Dr. Matteo Baraldo – Senior Research Officer

Prior to joining the team at REPLACE, Matteo spent many years in Africa involved in the design & implementation of development programs for international cooperation & academic research. His field experience includes working as a cultural mediator & translator interacting in multilingual & multi-ethnic contexts. In Matteo’s professional role he is committed to developing an in-depth understanding of the cultural and social aspects of traditional non-harmful healing practices.

These experiences were crucial for his doctoral research at the University for Foreigners in Perugia; Matteo’s research sheds light on the links between indigenous narrative medicine & non-Western healing paradigms. The innovative aspect to his research centred around the discovery of the written amulets used in spiritual healing, as an integral part of the tangible (physical) & intangible (spiritual/cultural) heritage of Orthodox Christianity in East Africa. This project made it possible to define a new cultural & pragmatic approach aimed at the preservation of the manuscripts together with their associated devotional practices & sacred sites.

Matteo has contributed to the field of scholarship on ‘Sense of Place’ with his publications such as Places of Power: mediation and interpreters, Legendary topographies in Ethiopia Mapping Ethiopia’s Ancient Spirituality and the Amba Geshen: from sacralization to de-sacralization. Alongside his academic activity & research, he is also a consultant for humanitarian initiatives, especially in the field of Disaster Risk Reduction and Preparedness related to man-made & natural disasters. Being particularly interested in exploring ways in which research can engage with strengthening community resilience, he is now involved with REPLACE as the Senior Research. Matteo also teaches post-graduate courses at the University for Foreigners of Perugia.

Dr. Francesca Dolcetti – Senior Research Officer

Francesca is a Digital Archaeologist with experience in User Experience Design and Evaluation, the application of 3D technologies in archaeology and heritage, as well as Participatory Design approaches. Her research interests lie at the intersection of both archaeology and heritage sectors and the design field, focusing on embedding values-led and participatory design methods into archaeology and heritage to develop more ethical, collaborative and community-led practices. 

Francesca’s PhD was premised on the notion that design shapes how archaeologists and heritage professionals develop and share their work and engage with audiences. As such, her research investigated how archaeological practices can benefit from embedding design theory and Participatory Design processes into the creation of digital resources, through two distinct iterations of design and assessment of digitally mediated experiences. 

Alongside her doctoral programme Francesca worked as UXD manager for the exhibition “Cyprus. Crossroads of civilizations” (Musei Reali, Turin, Italy), where she curated a museum experience developed as an interactive and multi-sensorial journey into the Cypriote Middle Bronze Age site of Erimi-Laonin tou Porakou. Francesca also collaborated on the redesign, testing and evaluation of a cards-based values-led design toolkit for the archaeological and heritage sectors – part of the EU-funded EMOTIVE project – recently implemented for her research fellowship at the Venice Centre for Digital and Public Humanities, Cà Foscari University of Venice, and she has published research in Ethically engaged Archaeology & Heritage, 3D models and immersive experiences and architectural visualisation.

Louise Rodwell – Project Officer

Louise is the Project Officer for REPLACE, and manages the day-to-day administration of the project, supporting the PI & wider team, coordinating the project activities and is the point of contact if the Principal Investigator is away. After teaching in the History Department, Louise joined the project in September 2022, working on the REPLACE project alongside her PhD in the Department of History, currently entitled “Art & Commemoration at the Centenary of the First World War”.

Before undertaking her PhD, Louise worked for A Plus Tate Organization in the development team in the lead up to a series of successful large bids, including the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme. The practical experience with project management gained in this role has informed her expertise in navigating larger project-based work. Since joining Essex for her PhD, Louise has taught courses on the First World War, and the History of Pandemics, given interviews on the comparisons and contrasts between Covid and the Great Flu, and been a regular contributor to History Indoors.  Louise also has worked as a project officer within the Department of History as part of the Fulbright Specialist Programme, which explored how natural and historic heritage sites can be used to engage the public with the climate emergency. 

She is particularly interested in developing ways to tell the stories of people and places that no longer exist and exploring how people interpret histories and heritage that can no longer be ‘told’ by those who experienced them.