Where Have We Come From? Where Are We Going? Challenges and Opportunities in 3D Modeling of Cultural Heritage Sites

Hannah Scates Kettler, Digital Humanities Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries

Lynn Cunningham, Principal Digital Curator, Visual Resources Center, University of California Berkeley

3D has the unparalleled ability to engage and evoke connection with the public and scholars alike. It offers a multifarious research experience with cultural heritage, and allows us to experience space and place in ways not previously possible. But for all the wonderful ways in which 3D enriches our research and experience of cultural heritage, there are some obstacles that make committing to 3D scholarship more difficult than other modes of research. Last summer, a group of NEH Fellows from the “Advanced Challenges in Theory and Practice in 3D Modeling of Cultural Heritage Sites” met to present and discuss their 3D research projects, representing a vast array of approaches and applications of 3D technology. The Fellows discussed how their shared experience with digital scholarship had the potential to serve as catalyst for answering the difficult and unresolved issues and opportunities associated with research and scholarship in 3D. This paper reviews these opportunities and sets the stage for further conversation about the possibilities of 3D for research and pedagogy.

Challenges in Public Dissemination of Cultural Heritage Data

Lauren Massari, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), University of Virginia

As academics working with 3D cultural heritage data, it is important that we be mindful of our target audience. With all of the data generated during research, what is the most appropriate format to publish findings and models? Do we need to disseminate measurable 3D data to archaeologists and academics, or are we producing content to engage and educate the general public? How are we disseminating this information in a way that will work reliably?

Since 2014, IATH has been working on Jefferson’s University, the Early Life (JUEL), a project that aims to illuminate community life at the university from its inception in 1819 to the years following the American Civil War. The 3D component of the JUEL Project has largely focused on derivatives of digital models, namely renders and animations, which engage the public but are not immersive or interactive. Over the past year, IATH has been exploring the use of other methods of making 3D content widely available to the public over the web including an interactive 3D environment made possible with Unity, a game engine, and WebGL; 3DHOP (3D Heritage Online Presenter), a web browser-based tool, where the focus has been on displaying 3D objects; Virtual Reality (VR); and Augmented Reality (AR).

All of these methods of 3D model dissemination address different needs and come with their own challenges. The technology available is constantly changing, and this affects the data that can be captured, generated, and displayed reliably to the public. As academics working with cultural heritage data, we must stay on top of new developments in 3D in order to provide the general public with engaging cultural heritage content.


Modeling Uncertainty, Uncertain Modelers, and their Uncertain Models

Kirk Quinsland, Fordham University

How does one go about creating a useful model of a site for which the archaeological record is scant, written records are partial, and changed substantially over the course of the time period covered by those documents, especially when the modelers are inexperienced, underfunded, understaffed, and unable (due to institutional constraints) to commit their full time and attention to the project? These are some of the larger challenges facing the small group working on Digital Blackfriars, a project aiming to build a model of a small area of London as it existed between approximately 1550 and 1600. In this presentation, I will be addressing our decision to embrace uncertainty and ambiguity as central to the modeling process, and our attempts to make a virtue of necessity by not attempting to create a hyperrealistic, or even especially realistic, model of this neighborhood. Instead, by using a deliberately artistic/abstract aesthetic, we are working to represent both changes to the site over time and the extent of the information that we have about any one particular building.

Freedom’s Fortress, A Tale of Two Interfaces: A comparison of AR and VR mobile environments to support the retelling of the “Contraband Decision”

Daisy-O’lice I. Williams, Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, University of Oregon

Freedom’s Fortress is a virtual depiction of the social and physical setting of 1860s Fort Monroe and nearby Phoebus (downtown Hampton, Virginia) where nearly 10,000 enslaved people sought refuge as “contrabands of war”. The goal of the first phase of the project is to digitally model the physical spaces that support the retelling of the 1861 Contraband Decision. In an effort to conceptualize the most appropriate interface for hosting 3D content, two interface ‘prototypes’ were created using VR and AR mobile applications. This paper offers a summary of observations in response to two challenges. First, it presents an approach to visualizing a historic site when information about its physical character is limited and little evidence remains. Second, it presents a comparative analysis of digital-storytelling with AR and VR mobile applications. Ultimately, outcomes are contextualized within a broader discussion regarding the non-neutrality of virtual and mixed-reality environments.


Libraries and 3D Modeling: Supporting Humanities Scholars Working with 3D

Hannah Scates Kettler, Digital Humanities Librarian, University of Iowa Libraries

Lynn Cunningham, Principal Digital Curator, Visual Resources Center, University of California Berkeley

Scholars are producing and using 3D content more than ever due the advancement and availability of 3D technology. How is this 3D content being preserved and disseminated? How is this digital scholarship being made available for pedagogical and research purposes? Where can one find repositories of 3D models and environments? Librarians and Information Professionals, with their expertise in research data management, digital curation, content delivery, and metadata creation, should be at the forefront of these issues. Increasingly, libraries are stepping into the role of supporting the research and pedagogical needs of scholars working with 3D. This paper explores what libraries are currently doing to support researchers and educators working with 3D, and also investigates what more needs to be done by libraries to ensure that this digital content is preserved and disseminated, enabling further humanistic inquiry and advancing scholarship of our shared cultural heritage.

Metadata, Paradata and Standards: Management Challenges in 3D Scholarly Edition Project

Gurpreet Singh, Visionary Cross Project, University of Lethbridge

This paper will try to focus on the importance of establishing the standards and designing and implementing meta-data and documentation of para-data for successful project management. The paper will be based on the experiences in managing a 3D scholarly edition project. This is a project true to DH nature involving scholars, researcher, programmers from varied fields. With varied fields come varied standards and decision making practices. This paper will use the experiences and lessons learnt from the initial phases of the Visionary Cross project and how these were instrumental in changing the whole approach towards completion of the project.

The end of Babel – Designing a virtual research environment for digital 3D reconstruction of art and architecture

Piotr Kuroczyński, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association (Marburg, Germany)

An ongoing project exploring “virtual reconstructions in transnational research environments” (www.herder-institut.de/go/dp-962a8d) is taken as the basis for introducing the potential and challenges of digital 3D reconstruction within the research on destroyed and/or never realised art and architecture and the dissemination of Cultural Heritage with information and communication technologies.

The talk presents a human- and machine-readable “language of objects” and the implementation of this semantic patterns within a prototype of an interactive “Virtual Museum.” Using the example of the ruined baroque palaces and parks in former East Prussia, it explains the requirements of the Semantic Web, the role of controlled vocabularies, the architecture of the virtual research environment (www.patrimonium.net) and the impact of a customised integration of interactive 3D models within the WebGL technology. The focus lies on the introduction of a scholarly approved virtual 3D reconstruction, compliant with CIDOC CRM documentation standard (ISO 21127:2006), and documented following the Linked Data requirements.


Collaborative Storytelling in Unity3D: Creating Scalable Long-Term Projects for Humanists

Lynn Ramey, Vanderbilt University

While storytelling and narratology have long been the domain of humanists, creating and exploring narratives using a video game platform poses unfamiliar challenges for team coordinators used to working alone with traditional media. Issues to overcome include training collaborators on technology, mutually accessible storage, prevention of data loss, and version control. This presentation describes a process used to create a dynamic and scalable team for a long-term project using video games to explore medieval texts.

Trolley Problem in a Virtual 3D Environment

Jacob Caton, Dept. of English, Philosophy, and World Languages, Arkansas State University

Eric Cave, Dept. of English, Philosophy, and World Languages, Arkansas State University

In the trolley problem, a runaway trolley is headed toward five people on the track. If nothing is done, these five people will be killed. However, there is a nearby switch that, if pulled, will divert the trolley to a side track, avoiding the five people. However, there is one person on the side track—if the trolley is diverted, this one person will be killed. After hearing or reading this vignette, subjects are asked if it is morally permissible to pull the switch.

In its linguistic form, the trolley problem has been studied extensively by cognitive scientists, cognitive psychologists, and philosophers. We suspect that deploying the trolley problem in a 3D virtual environment has the capacity to provoke different moral judgements (as revealed by behavior) in subjects than a linguistic deployment of the trolley problem. In this presentation, we will discuss the design, deployment, and results of an experiment in which we vary major aspects of the visual presentation of characters in a version of the trolley problem situated in a 3D virtual environment. In doing so, we pay particular attention to lessons learned along that way likely to prove helpful to other scholars navigating the kinds of difficulties, moral and otherwise, involved in asking others to navigate 3D virtual environments for the purpose of knowledge acquisition or dissemination.

Can Virtual Spaces Be Made Accessible to the Blind Using Spatial Audio Cues?

Glenn Gunhouse, Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design, Georgia State University, Atlanta

As virtual-reality technology becomes an increasingly common way of presenting information about historical spaces, we find ourselves faced with the challenge of making such spaces accessible to those with disabilities. This challenge is particularly difficult in the case of the blind, since VR technology is so strongly visual. However, the recent development of consumer-level VR headsets like the Oculus Rift offers hope for the blind. Though designed for the sighted, the Rift’s head-tracking capabilities, together with advanced spatial audio techniques, make it possible for virtual 3D spaces to be made comprehensible to the blind using sound alone. This paper presents an overview of the problem, and the results of a preliminary study employing the Oculus Rift to test strategies for using sound to communicate spatial information about architectural settings.


Phygital Augmentations of History in the Classroom: The Battle of Mount Street Bridge

Constantinos Papadopoulos, Lecturer in Digital Heritage, An Foras Feasa, The Institute for Research in the Humanities, Maynooth University, Ireland

The Battle of Mount Street Bridge has attracted much scholarly attention not only due to its significance during the 1916 Easter Rising but also because of the ambiguity and complexity of the various sources regarding key elements of the conflict, including the British casualties and the times that different events took place. The first phase of the project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the Humanities Virtual World Consortium, employed Unity3D to create an online and annotated digital reconstruction of the battlefield. This virtual model visually presents the ways that the event unfolded, therefore enabling researchers and the public to construct their own interpretations about this seminal battle in modern Irish history.

The second phase of the project, funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the Higher Education Authority (HEA – PRTLI 5) in Ireland will be the focus of this presentation. It employs Mixed Reality technologies aiming at creating a new paradigm for digitally aided hands-on interactions in the classroom to enhance history learning and teaching. The project focuses on the creation of physical and digital engagements with the battle for transition year students (15-16 years old) by using replicas of objects (photographs, letters, state records etc.) as well as 3D printed buildings of the battlefield that trigger multimedia content on mobile devices. Following an iterative process of design and evaluation, the project will develop a handling box to be posted to schools in Ireland that will include the materials for the physical and digital interactions as well as lesson plans that will help teachers to effectively use this resource in the classroom.

This paper will present the concepts behind using emerging technologies in classroom for teaching history, our storytelling approach to design both the physical material and digital interactions, as well as preliminary results from the first focus group with second level teachers that informed our decision-making process regarding technical elements as well as the structuring of content. The presentation will conclude by arguing that Augmented and Mixed Reality approaches that enable phygital interactions with historic and heritage datasets provide an innovative way of multimodal interaction, emphasising the production of knowledge and the augmentation of understanding within physical space.

Technology-Enhanced Learning for Local History: Utilizing the Potential of AR and VR to Explore Blacksburg’s Historic 16 Squares District

Thomas Tucker, Associate Professor, Creative Technologies, School of Visual Arts, Virginia Tech

This project uses 3D modeling techniques combined with virtual and augmented reality to represent the 16 Squares district, the historic center of the Town of Blacksburg, Virginia, to capture and represent 200 years of change. Project components include 3D and virtual models and a virtual “field trip” to the area that will be accessible as an online experience, a desktop computer simulation, an exhibit in a virtual reality environment at Virginia Tech, and an augmented reality museum exhibit in downtown Blacksburg. The project builds on five years of archival research, scanning and modeling, and related projects that experimented with using technology enhancements and scaffolded learning techniques, while making the material accessible to general audiences, scholars in multiple fields, and students. The project integrates an array of technologies including Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D printing, audio, photogrammetry, and projection mapping to represent local heritage sites and interpret them for and with the public and other learning audiences in ways that are emotionally and pedagogically effective.

Technology-Enhanced Learning for Local History: Christiansburg Institute and the CI-Spy Application

David P. Cline, Assistant Professor of Public History, Virginia Tech

This project, nicknamed “CI Spy,” uses 3D modeling techniques combined with virtual and augmented reality packaged into a user-friendly iPad-enabled application designed to explore historic sites while simultaneously teaching historical skills of evidence analysis. We developed a system that would be hand-held and easily portable and provide 6DOF tracking to update the AR scene view based on a user’s perspective. Working with iPads and their built-in GPS, inertial rotation sensors, and camera for tracking, we developed the application on a Unity platform and used Metaio for point-cloud and marker-based tracking. Utilizing the history and artifacts of the Christiansburg Institute, an African American school that operated in Southwest Virginia from 1867-1966, the project goals were to explore how AR can (1) support students as they develop a deeper understanding of the concept of time, continuity and change for a historic site, (2) provide an explicit hard scaffold and layered strategy instruction to teach historical inquiry strategies, and (3) use new technologies to create exciting user experiences at historic sites. We created a mobile AR application that incorporated 3D modeling, contextualized evidence presentation, and in-place evidence analysis using historical inquiry. Our field work over two years with 15+ classes of fifth grade history students, over 300 individuals in all, has demonstrated that even young students can learn the process of historical inquiry by analyzing evidence within an augmented real-world setting, and that such learning competes favorably with standard classroom-based learning strategies. The project builds on nearly ten years of archival research, oral histories, scanning and modeling, and related projects that experimented with using technology enhancements and scaffolded-learning techniques, while making the material accessible to general audiences, scholars in multiple fields, and students. The project offers insight into the possibilities that integrating an array of technologies — including Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and projection mapping — hold for providing emotionally and pedagogically effective visitor learning experiences at historic sites, especially those with limited extant structures or features.

Liberty Hall Museum: Designed VR/AR Experiences

Edward S. Johnston, Assistant Professor, Robert Busch School of Design, Michael Graves College, Kean University

Student Co-authors: Christina Galera, Mark Matarese, Eric Vita, Erica Whyte

Professor Ed Johnston and his collaborative student researchers have been working on a series of projects involving the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies to improve accessibility and enrich experiences within Liberty Hall Museum in Union, New Jersey. This paper shares process, results, and discusses the broader impact of these projects within design and digital cultural heritage.


Virtual Cultural Rehearsal: Addressing Digital Humanities Concerns in the Design of Mixed-Reality Cultural Immersion Projects

Natalie Underberg-Goode, Associate Professor of Digital Media and Folklore, University of Central Florida School of Visual Arts and Design

In this paper I consider three main issues in relation to developing mixed-reality cultural immersion projects: affordances and constraints of mixed-reality, “authentic” non-verbal communication, and rehearsing cultural interaction and learning. Drawing upon an analysis of mixed-reality projects currently used for education and training, I explore in more detail the affordances and constraints of mixed-reality vis-a-vis a fully virtual environment for the purposes of cultural learning in digital environments. Second, in this paper I examine issues of cultural representation, performativity, and identity tourism in relation to virtual heritage, while considering the state of the field in modeling non-Caucasian faces. What should digital humanities scholars know about modeling—both technically and in terms of “the ethics of avatar creation”—for non-verbal cross cultural communication? Third, in this paper I share what I have learned about the needs and interests of two groups central to developing cultural immersion programs: those involved in cultural tourism encounters abroad and those hoping to prepare students and cultural tourists in the home country, and what this tells digital humanities scholars about how to better design relevant and meaningful cultural interaction scenarios for the purposes of cultural learning.

The Uncle Sam Plantation: A 3D/VR Learning Environment for Teaching Lost and Difficult Histories

David Neville, Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative, Grinnell College

The Uncle Sam (Constancia) Plantation was a 19th-century sugar plantation located near Convent in St. James Parish, Louisiana. One of the most intact and architecturally-unified plantation complexes in the Southeastern United States, its Greek Revival-style mansion and outbuildings were constructed between 1829 and 1843. Although the plantation complex was razed in 1940 to make room for a river levee, floor plans and elevations of the buildings were produced by the Historic American Building Survey. The presentation will (1) describe the instructional affordances provided by 3D/VR environments; (2) show how 3D models based on floor plans and elevations were developed in SketchUp; and (3) demonstrate a working prototype of the 3D/VR environment developed in Unity. The presentation will conclude with a description of future project directions and an invitation for institute participants to become involved in research and development.

From Elmina to Sankofa: an evolving digital project

Magda El Zarki, Research Institute in Virtual Environments and Computer Games, Department of Computer Science, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California-Irvine 

In the preceding year, we added two additional features to our design for Elmina – an augmented reality segment and a memorial wall.  The AR introduces the history of the fort by recreating historical portraits as 3 dimensional interactive spaces, which allow an individual to explore the history represented in this particular image. The second feature which we are still testing, involved the creation of a memorial wall, to allow people who are moved by the wall to leave comments, remembrances, and stories that will eventually be archived.

However, most of our attention over the past year has been devoted to introducing the history and culture of the indigenous people who resided in the area surrounding the fort as well as to its immediate north – members of the Asante kingdom. To incorporate this dimension of African history, we have created a game, with educational modules, called Sankofa – a popular Asante word reflecting the desire to recuperate the past.


MayaCityBuilder: A workflow and test application for integrating georeferenced multi-format and multi-resolution data to explore ancient Maya cityscapes

Heather Richards-Rissetto, Department of Anthropology and Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The long term goal of the MayaCityBuilder Project is to allow users to create alternative architectural reconstructions of ancient Maya cityscapes within in a web-based environment to foster collaborative analysis and discourse. The project’s conceptual plan has five tracts: (I) Archaeological/Architectural Research, (II) 3D Model Development, (III) Design Import/Export Workflows, (IV) Database Development & Testing, and (V) Website Development & Testing. The case study is the ancient Maya city of Copan, Honduras—today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This paper focuses on Tracts II and III. Building on data collected in Tract I, I present architectural ontologies (model hierarchies) for buildings at four site types that I “translated” into architectural rules coded using Computer Generated Architecture(GCA)—a programming language to generate architectural 3D content. While Tract II involves 3D model development using various data acquisition and processing techniques, here I focus on procedural modeling—rapid proto-typing of 3D models from a set of rules. Moving into Tract III, I layout a workflow to integrate georeferenced 3D models of multiple formats and multiple resolutions including procedurally-generated, photogrammetric, laser scanned, CAD (Computer Aided Drawing), and airborne LiDAR data into an interactive 3D environment. A test application explores the potential of this workflow to “recreate” a hypothesized stelae procession route and explore visual experience along this route at Copan, Honduras.

The House of the Rhyta at Pseira: A New Reconstruction for Online Crowdsourcing

Miriam G. Clinton, Rhodes College Department of Art & Art History

While 3D modeling is an increasingly popular approach to the illustration of ancient architecture, especially in public outreach, its full capabilities are rarely exploited. In scholarly publications, models are largely confined to illustrations, rather than contributing to the arguments. This dichotomy between illustration and heuristics, however, is false. 3D modeling can still serve as outreach while becoming an integral part of hypothesis creation, evidence gathering, and argumentation. Using the Minoan case study of the House of the Rhyta at Pseira, this paper discusses 3D modeling as both visualization and scientific tool.

Based on intensive architectural re-examination of the House of the Rhyta, this paper presents a new model that solves many apparent architectural problems, especially reconstructing access routes within the house. In addition to providing a testable hypothesis in the reconstruction itself, the model will be used for crowdsourcing to test architectural theories about the use of space. Online users will circulate through the structure, while their movements are tracked and the data aggregated. This tracking will provide a quantitative check to theories about circulation patterns in Minoan architecture, research that has previously relied on qualitative analysis. The research has the potential to generate new conclusions on the Minoan use of the House of the Rhyta, clarifying an otherwise elusive structure. At the same time, the model will be accessible as an online tool, creating new opportunities to experience the world of ordinary Minoans. It will serve as an interactive portal to the site, integrating public outreach and scientific research.

3D Saqqara and the Future of Born-Digital Publishing

Elaine Sullivan, Assistant Professor, Department of History, UC Santa Cruz

Archaeology is undergoing a digital revolution. Using new digital methodologies, we have dramatically shifted data collection, archiving, and analysis. But we have not yet transitioned to sharing and publishing our research in ways that reflect these innovations. This is especially true for 3D content, which is reduced to small 2D screen-shots in paper volumes or static PDFs. The publication Constructing the Sacred: Visibility and Ritual Landscape at the Egyptian Necropolis of Saqqara will break free from such strictures, fully integrating 3D content into the research study of an important ancient Egyptian cult site. By moving ‘born-digital’ material directly into a digital publishing format, the study will include dynamic and interactive 3D model content, discoverable metadata, high-resolution color video, and sophisticated visual argumentation based on human movement, perception and visibility – all impossible in traditional print publication formats. This presentation will discuss how the 3D Saqqara model will be integrated into a traditional long-form academic argument to promote the use of serious 3D content in archaeological scholarship.

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