User Tools

Site Tools


EU JPI-CH PHE : The Past Has Ears (2020-2023)

PHE is a collaborative research project. Partners in the project include researchers from a wide range of disciplines focusing on room acoustics as an important aspect of cultural heritage. Funding has been provided by the EU JPI Cultural Heritage project PHE (20-JPIC-0002-FS).


  • University of York, York, UK
  • University of Parma, Parma, Italy
  • Sorbonne Université, Paris, France
  • Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (MSH) Lyon St-Etienne, Lyon, France
  • Direction régionale des affaires culturelles d'Île-de-France (Notre Dame), Paris, France
  • PRISM, CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, Marseille, France
  • Houses of Parliament, London, UK
  • Parco Archeologico di Tindari (Tindari Theatre), Tindari, Italy


When we think about great architectural achievements in European history, such as ancient amphitheatres or gothic cathedrals, their importance is strongly tied to their acoustic environment. The acoustics of a site is an intangible consequence of the space’s tangible construction and furnishings. It is ephemeral, while also a concrete result of the physical nature of the environment. Through the “Past Has Ears” project (the PHE project), we will explore how via measurements, research, and virtual reconstructions the acoustics of heritage spaces can be documented, reconstructed, and experienced for spaces both existing and in various altered states. Inspired by the project’s namesake (Phé, for the constellation Phoenix), and the recent fires at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (2019) and Teatro La Fenice opera hall (1996, also meaning Phoenix), PHE focuses on the preservation, conservation, and reconstruction of heritage sites, bringing them back from the ashes for use by researchers, stake holders, cultural institutions, and the general public. Comprising research teams with experience in acoustic reconstructions and historical research, paired with national heritage monuments of acoustic importance, the consortium will develop a joint methodology for addressing relevant archaeological acoustics issues across Europe with historians of different disciplines. Specialists in tangible/intangible cultural heritage legal issues ensure the viability and longevity of the methodology guidelines. The consortium will prototype next generation exploration tools for presenting digital acoustic reconstructions to scientists and museum visitors alike. Results will be evaluated with associated test heritage sites, created in partnership with stakeholders and experienced content producers. Presentation methods provide first-person in-situ or offsite explorations, with the ability to experience various historical periods. For deteriorated sites, this approach provides access to situations impossible to experience onsite.


"Looking for Notre-Dame" An immersive sound fiction

Production project Looking for Notre-Dame, in 4 Episodes is available on the website and also directly on Audible. Available in French and English.

Looking for Notre-Dame is a 3D sound experience that plunges us into the mind of the young Victor Hugo as he begins his research for his future “cathedral novel”, Notre Dame de Paris. The year is 1828. Hugo is 26 years old. Notre-Dame was then a church in a dilapidated state. It would only be renovated by Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus in 1843. Notre-Dame was dying, and Hugo wanted to resurrect it as it had been in the Middle Ages. The legendary author plunges us into an investigation / experiment on the sound of Notre-Dame, allowing us to explore its acoustics and soundscapes over the centuries.

"Notre-Dame Whispers" An autonomous immersive audio-guide

Production project Notre-Dame Whispers is available for free for Android and iOS in French, English, and Spanish.

“Shhh… Notre-Dame is speaking to you… Listen up! Experience an extraordinary sensory journey around the famous Parisian monument. Explore from viewpoint to viewpoint and immerse yourself in thrilling stories narrated by the oldest lady in Paris. Grab your headphones, your phone, and get ready to dive in. Live each story from the inside, as if you were there. Along a route composed of 6 listening stations, Notre-Dame shares her memories, which you collect one by one to recreate the rose of her memory.


In the Press

  • S. Magny, “Les cloches sonnent pour Notre-Dame”, L'Yonne Républicaine, p.13, 22-03-2023 (url), (extract).
  • M. Schwartz, M. Khurana, M. Gröndahl & Y. Parshina-Kottas, “A Cathedral of Sound”, New York Times Magazine, 05-03-2023, (url).
  • “Cette application audio-immersive va vous plonger dans les secrets de Notre-Dame de Paris”, marie claire, 12-05-2024 (url)

Go to the PHE Presentations and Publications page

A kind of mission statement : B. F. G. Katz, D. Murphy, and A. Farina, “Exploring cultural heritage through acoustic digital reconstructions,” Physics Today, vol. 73, pp. 32–37, dec 2020, doi:10.1063/pt.3.4633.

Conference / Colloque

Gothic Resonances 2023 international colloquium, organized by the PHE project.


If you have any question or comments, please contact

phe.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/14 19:36 by katz