Digital Legacy – The Future of Our History

Paul Tice Historic Preservation

Two sites have been documented in Oregon based on Restore Oregon’s “Most Endangered Places” list. The Petersen Rock Gardens…

…and now, the Rivoli Theater.

Both sites had their technical challenges. Petersen’s was just a very large site; 4 acres of terrestrial laser scanning with color in blinding, desert daylight. The Rivoli had small, pitch-black crawl-spaces and cobwebs in every conceivable nook and cranny. Our team entered these projects blind. We committed first, then assessed what had to be done upon our arrival at the sites. ‘Choose and Move’ may end up being our motto one day!

Having the privilege of learning history through experience – tying the stories to real-time interactions with people who have lived during the prime of these places has been a sweet touch-point. These sort of projects really engage the community and bring people together.

I have had dozens of people ask me about our scanner. They want to know what it is, how it works, what the product will look like, how the data is used… I’ve learned ways to articulate the technology and process fairly succinctly and if that fails, I usually show a fly-through video via my iPad, which also acts as my remote controller for the scanner (brilliantly convenient for changing resolutions and color options on the fly). The reaction of every person is pretty much the same: “Wow.”

I concur.

Like any great product, these things cost. Funding is always a concern and quite a few people in the historic preservation world see the potential value but aren’t exactly sure how to ask for funding for it. Laser scanning is still VERY new to a lot of people and while most have had experience with 3D visualizations, not many understand the utilitarian aspect of 3D technology. This includes professionals. But as our education efforts persist, we have garnered the attention of those that see how to leverage this technology to speed up the documentation process. We have also found budding partnerships with the academic world – in a big way. The University of Oregon’s historical preservation program is on fire for this technology and staff at Oregon State University are seasoned at digging into the mathematics and programming controls for point clouds. Both are supportive of marrying 3D technology with the preservation and with that support comes credibility…which can lead to funding…which can lead to some great work and research for a lot of people in the future. In this process, I am learning a great deal as well.

If I were to conclude anything it would be that it’s only a matter of time. To quote Andrew in reference to the renovation of the Rivoli Theater,

“I will bet anyone $5 million that this project will get done…before the end of time…”

Well said Andrew! That is how I feel about documenting Oregon’s history. It will get done, one way or another and funding will come because there are a lot of people passionate about spaces and places that hold rich history and meaning in our State. Belief is like a fire – hot, a little dangerous, and spreads fast; a fire of creativity.


ToPa 3D~