Your Heritage Needs You!

Probably the most common statement we receive from members of the Curious Travellers community is along the lines of ‘I have some photographs from the archaeological site of ###, but I’m sure you already have (enough) pictures of it’.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

We want as many different pictures of the sites, buildings and monuments as you wish to send us. Since we are trying to reconstruct digital 3D models of the buildings, we need many more images than you might think. All too often people only take one photograph of a building or monument to record their memory, and this would only give us a single viewpoint of the structure. The beauty of receiving images from the Curious Travellers community is that they are all taken from slightly different viewpoints and directions, which means we can get to see all (or at least most) of the sides of the building. Even more important, which perhaps feels slightly strange, is that we also want to see images of the back or unadorned sides of the monument, which people often do not think worthy of recording. In many instances you will see images of the rear of buildings in the background of photographs looking at other items of interest. Images like this can be really useful.

To try to illustrate this problem in a better (and non-technical) manner, I’m going to use as an example a monument down the road from where I am sat now – the Bradford war memorial. Partly this comes to mind as today is Remembrance Day, but also due to my interest in the archaeology of the First World War. This memorial is also a classic example for illustrating that preserving heritage does not just mean physical objects and buildings, since the building also acts as a conceptual link and reminder to the memories and people with whom it is associated.

In many cases people would photograph the front of the monument, or perhaps take close up snaps of details, such as the figures, or of the writing. You might end up with some photos similar to these:

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Using images like these, we can start to create a 3D image on the computer using photogrammetry  (=the use of photography to ascertain measurements on and between objects) software. However, the model resulting from these images contains gaps in the data and there are whole aspects of the monument that we cannot see, such as the rear face. Also, with limited viewpoints onto the monument, the computer software struggles to create a 3D model from 2D pictures. We end up with a messy looking model such as this:

Even at this stage we are recovering important data, but you can clearly see where we need a broader photographic coverage to make a better 3D model. We can try using a larger number of images to create another 3D image. This one has used 96 photographs, combining wide angle shots and close-up pictures of the details of the figures.

As you can see from looking at the model it is still not complete, and there are areas that have not been covered in the photographs, in particular the very top of the memorial. However, it is a reasonable, workable 3D model that allows us to see the main details of the memorial.

This has illustrated clearly several problems the Curious Travellers project has with reconstructing 3D models of the archaeological sites, and the buildings and monuments that comprise them:

  • We need photographs from multiple angles and viewpoints
  • We need photographs of the back of buildings and monuments
  • There are problems with getting photographs looking down on the tops of buildings and monuments, unless they are overlooked by hills or other buildings

The Curious Travellers project is currently working through the images that have kindly been sent to us, but we need more support from you. Amongst all the other sites we are working on at the moment, we are particularly interested in images of Cyrene in Libya and would be very grateful to have images of Cyrene uploaded via our website: get involved

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