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Bringing History to Life with Artec Scanners

Bringing History to Life with Artec Scanners

Dr Lyn Wilson – Digital Documentation Manager, Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation LLP.

© Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation

The Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation is a partnership between Historic Environment Scotland and The Glasgow School of Art, set up to deliver innovative digital heritage projects. We first started using an Artec MHT scanner back in 2011 (supplied by Central Scanning) while working on the Scottish Ten Project (www.scottishten.org). This saw us digitally documenting Scotland’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and international heritage sites including Mount Rushmore and the Sydney Opera House to generate 3D data to help in their conservation, management and interpretation.

© Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation

One of our international sites was the wonderful 1,000 year old stepwell of Rani ki Vav in Gujarat, India (https://www.engineshed.org/about-us/the-scottish-ten/sites/rani-ki-vav-india/). This was the first project where the Artec scanner really proved invaluable. The site is adorned with over 400 intricately carved sandstone figures of Hindu deities. While we worked with terrestrial laser scanners to capture the stepwell and its context, we worked for a solid two weeks with the MHT to record the detail of as many sculptures as we could at high resolution. The MHT was the perfect scanner for the job and produced some fantastic data. It thereafter became a permanent tool in our 3D toolkit. We were really thrilled when our work at Rani ki Vav contributed in part to the site being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

© Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation

Currently, we are working with partners in Germany and Austria on a Creative Europe funded project called Advanced Limes Applications (http://www.alapp.eu/en). This seeks to develop 3D content for both the Antonine Wall and the German Limes – both of which form parts of the UNESCO Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. In Scotland, the project works with six locations along the Antonine Wall: Bearsden, Croy Hill, Duntocher, Kinneil, Rough Castle and Watling Lodge. The work in Bavaria, however, focusses on one site, the archaeological landscape at Eining, near Regensburg, including the former Abusina castell.

© Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation

We are systematically recording Antonine Wall and German Limes objects as part of the Alapp project to create an interactive location-based augmented reality app for the northernmost Frontier of the Roman Empire. We are adding content to this over the next few years thanks to the Creative Europe funding, but the app can be downloaded now for free with information for the first sites: Google Play / iTunes.

 © Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation

The app features interactive 3D models and reconstructions of artefacts found at the Roman sites. To capture the museum artefacts in 3D we are using a combination of Artec structured light scanners and digital photogrammetry. We have upgraded to an Artec Eva system, which is a big advance in terms of data quality, portability and ease of use. We have a battery pack for the system which helps us out when working in places with no power source. For the project, we recently digitally recorded some amazing statues of Mars and Venus in a museum in Munich. By incorporating these 3D models into the app, we are able to digitally repatriate the artefacts to the places they were found. Our project partners in Austria, EduFilm, are developing an augmented reality component which will allow you to interact with the 3D models in real-time while you visit the archaeological site.

© Sandra Walkshofer

We are also now beginning to share these 3D models generated using the Artec scanners and processed in Artec Studio on Sketchfab. You can see some of our Antonine Wall models (such as this distance slab pictured above) here: https://sketchfab.com/HistoricEnvironmentScotland. Artec scanners and software let us quickly and accurately generate 3D models for the cultural heritage sites and artefacts we work on, helping us to share and disseminate. Artec data really does allow us to bring our history to life!

We hope to continue working with Central Scanning and Artec3D scanners for the foreseeable future and look forward to evaluating the Artec Leo to further enhance our capabilities.

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