Virtual Preservation: A Unique Applied Research Project In The Virgin Islands National Park
2008 Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
Since 2003 students and faculty members at the University of Maine (UM) have participated in a unique partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) in the Virgin Islands National Park (the Park) on St. John. The Park contains ruins of over five hundred buildings that captured and enslaved Africans were forced to build, live in, and work in during the Danish colonial era from the late seventeenth-to the mid-nineteenth century. The ruins are overgrown by the jungle and not accessible by roads,
... and funding for preservation of this unique cultural resource is limited. As a result, the teams from Maine have engaged in an applied research service-learning project to "virtually preserve" the site of a sugar and rum factory on Leinster Bay using computer-aided design and close-range photogrammetry techniques. The applied research objective is to develop techniques to obtain accurate computer models of preservation sites to allow scholars and the public to "see" the sites in a three-dimensional sense. The project has involved both classes and travel to the Park. During spring terms students enrolled in courses to learn the required skills: taking and processing digital images, close-range photogrammetry processing, developing geographic information systems (GIS), and developing computer-aided design (CAD) models. Students were required to learn independently and through hands-on experience as expected of life-long learners. During the spring breaks faculty members and student interns traveled to the Park to work with a multidisciplinary team to take and process digital image and survey data at the site. Team members included professionals, graduate interns, and undergraduate interns from fields ranging from archeology to spatial information science. The interns observed first hand important sites of the brutal history of the Caribbean, and recognized the importance of preserving this unique cultural heritage. Interns participated in presentations describing the work and its importance to members of the public visiting the Park. Upon returning to classes after the break, the students continued to process the data collected. The results of their work from this ongoing project are available to the public on a web site.