This presentation is part of the 2017 3D Digital Documentation Summit.

Shifting the Paradigm of Heritage Conservation Education through 3D Imaging Technologies

The development and advancement of 3D imaging technologies is profoundly changing the way heritage specialists undertake documentation, collaborate, and accomplish their goals of preserving historical and cultural resources. Heritage conservation scholars and instructors are recognizing this phenomenon. Research and teaching have started involving 3D imaging, and students are being introduced and becoming more familiar with technologies like laser scanning for heritage conservation. Limited research, however, has been done to explore how heritage conservation education and practice are changing. This study records and analyzes how 3D imaging is transforming how heritage specialists are educated and how they are integrating technologies like laser scanning into workflows for documenting resources.

The study employed ethnographic research to investigate how collegiate instructors and students use 3D imaging tools for documentation of heritage sites and how the technologies are changing the traditional approaches to academic training and practice. Data collection tools included interviews and observations. Interviews were conducted with graduate students and faculty members comprising two focus groups: a graphical documentation course aiming at a Historic American Building Survey (HABS) submission and university research group dealing with sponsored projects. Both groups utilized 3D laser scanning and photogrammetry as documentation tools. Interviewees also included individuals ranging from a former director of a traditional documentation program to students who have attended a 3D imaging workshop. The research also incorporates the authors’ observations during involvement in heritage documentation programs and training courses.

To understand the contexts of the ethnographic research, two case studies were chosen: University Lutheran Church, Gainesville, Florida and Roebuck Street, Bridgetown, Barbados. The church is a 1961 post-World War II modern style building that was designed by a Florida architect A. Wynn Howell and retains a high level of integrity. The building was surveyed and documented by graduate students with the goal of a HABS submission. Roebuck Street is one of the major commercial thoroughfares in Bridgetown, Barbados. This major street was established about 1628 by English settlers and is included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription. As part of the city’s redevelopment planning effort, the approximately one-mile-long streetscape was documented by 3D laser scanning over 4.5 days, and student researchers created elevation drawings of some of the most significant historic buildings on the street. The case selection criteria include different access levels and project scales. While the site of the church was visited on a regular basis, Barbados was never visited by most of the student assistants. Consequently, the church project could combine field measured information, but the Caribbean project exclusively depended on 3D laser scans. Also, while the church project aimed at a complete documentation of the architecture, the Roebuck Street project was focused on the urban scale and street elevations and conditions.

Among the results of this study, outcomes indicate that the integration of 3D imaging technologies into the heritage documentation process is shifting analysis from reality to the virtual realm. Less time is spent in the field and more time with the digital data. In both case studies, students and faculty relied heavily on the results of laser scanning to examine and better understand the design, construction details, and materials, among other aspects of the buildings. For example, rather than taking measurements and physically assessing building components on site, this analysis was conducted from the virtual model. A key variable was accessibility. In one instance, the site was remotely located and not easily visited. The architecture of the other example did not allow some areas to be easily accessed. This paper and presentation explore this shift in heritage documentation and address larger issues of the opportunities and challenges it affords, including how to educate a future generation of specialists who will increasingly experience sites virtually.

Speaker Bios

Sujin Kim is a research assistant of the Envision Heritage initiative at the University of Florida where he pursues his Ph.D. His dissertation explores the impact of terrestrial laser scanning on conservation of the built heritage. Sujin has examined methodologies of producing a variety of products from laser scan data, such as topographic mapping for flood mitigation planning and solid modeling for reconstruction of historic elements, on which he presented papers at international conferences. Sujin led a laser scanning workshop and graduate course. Sujin got his master’s in architecture and historic preservation from the University of Texas at Austin.

Morris (Marty) Hylton III is Director of the Historic Preservation Program and Preservation Institute Nantucket at the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction and Planning. His research addresses multifaceted strategies for documenting and advocating the preservation of endangered heritage sites, particularly cultural resources associated with modernism and the Recent Past and historic places and communities endangered by sea level rise and other threats. Marty also created and manages the Envision Heritage initiative to explore how new and emerging technologies like laser scanning can be used to document historic sites and cultural resources.

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