Wednesday, May 24, 2017

NCPTT 3D Digital Documentation Summit

In mid-April I had the chance to attend a National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT) summit that focused on 3D digital documentation and other advances in the field of digital heritage preservation. The summit was held in New Orleans at the historic New Orleans Mint, now a museum which also hosts the great "Music at the Mint" jazz series. The summit brought together professionals working in digital documentation and preservation from around the world for three days to share their work, discuss the future of the field, and tackle issues the field is facing today.

The New Orleans Mint from a 1907 Postcard, Wikipedia image.

The papers ranged widely in subject matter and focus. The unifying them of all, however, was the need to expand and define the capabilities of 3D technology in the fields of heritage preservation and archaeology. While the first two days were filled with presentations and round-tables, the last day was dedicated to workshops in the field. We all piled into a bus and went to St. Louis Cemetery #2 to try our hand at using LiDAR, drones, and photogrammetry to create 3D models of the cemetery.

St. Louis Cemetery 2, from Save Our Cemeteries

Be sure to check out the link above to learn about all of the talks at the NCPTT summit. Below is a short overview of a few of the talks I found particularly interesting and applicable to archaeological work

I. "Technology for the People: Developing a Low Cost Heritage Documentation Kit to Spur Innovation in Digital Preservation."
Kacey Hadick and Scott Lee, CyArk

CyArk is one of the first to make forays into 3D digital documentation and their mission to preserve at-risk cultural heritage sites is commendable. I'm a big fan of their work so I was excited to see this presentation. Kacey Hadick presented on CyArk's new initiative to create low cost ($1,500) kits for digital documentation that could be deployed into areas where sites are at risk. Video tutorials get users prepped to begin collecting data. CyArk sees several applications for their kits and I have to agree; getting this kind of technology into areas where conflict or natural disasters threaten important cultural sites is a fantastic way to head off permanent loss. Kacey did a short blog over at the CyArk page which you can check out HERE.

II. "Beyond Hype and Promise: Digital Heritage Strategies in Our Nation's Parks for Preservation, 3D Learning, Outreach, and Education."
Lori Collins and Travis Doering, USF Library Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections

Lori and Travis have been pumping out great 3D digital documentation work at USF for as long as I can remember. Currently, they are heading USF Library's Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections. In this presentation, Lori discussed how 3D documentation can be used to preserve and interpret fragile sites in the National Park System. One of the most important points was that this kind of documentation isn't just about creating engaging pictures; this kind of data collection can allow for the long-term preservation and interpretation of sites by focusing on making the outputs user/public-friendly. That's doubly important if your end user is, you know, the client. If they can't interact with the data, what good is it? One of my other favorite takeaways was Lori's discussion of the technology "hype cycle." Go check out the link for a further discussion, but essentially it's important to remember that new technology doesn't solve all problems. Indeed, it often just brings a new set with it as it becomes more commonly used.

Technology hype cycle, Wikipedia image

II. "3D Digital Documentation and Analysis of the Reef Bay Valley Petroglyphs."
Travis Doering and Lori Collins, USF Library Digital Heritage and Humanities Collections

Travis, the other part of the USF team, gave a fantastic presentation on the use of 3D documentation to better define and interpret imperiled petroglyphs at a National Park site on the U.S. Virgin Islands. The petroglyphs had been imperfectly documented prior to his work and site interpretations were thus based on that imperfect data. By showing how 3D visualization allows for a better, more precise site-wide view for the archaeologist, Travis demonstrated the impact that these types of technologies are already having in the field.

Reef Bay Petroglyphs, Wikipedia image

I learned a great deal from my time being around so many folks whose work I have been admiring from afar these last few years. These technologies are barreling towards us and offer a number of magnificent opportunities to better preserve, and more importantly, share our investigations with the public. Be sure to keep an eye on the folks who presented at this summit, we're sure to hear more great things from them. And that's no hype.

Text: Kevin Gidusko

2 Responses so far.

  1. Jeremiah says:

    If anyone is interested in presenting as a group at this year's SEAC please contact me. I presented a poster about 3d modeling a historic company village and am working on a photogrammetry paper this year for Tulsa.

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