15.281 3D modelling & historical evidence

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 04:26:05 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 15, No. 281.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2001 09:12:47 +0100
             From: "Bonnett, John" <John.Bonnett@nrc.ca>
             Subject: Bacon, data and imagination

    I am grateful to Franois Lachance for his repeated references to my work,
    which uses 3D Modelling Software as an instrument to teach the discipline of
    history. Using fire insurance maps and photographs, the 3D Virtual
    Buildings Project <http://cfml.iit.nrc.ca/3DVirtualBuildings> strives to
    expose students to the problems of evidence commonly faced by historians.
    As students translate the information contained in their source material
    into information they can use to construct a 3D model, they learn that
    evidence often has an imprecise meaning, is subject to misinterpretation,
    and contains gaps. The purpose of our exercises is to visually demonstrate
    problems common to all forms of historical representation, be it a
    monograph, be it an article, or be it a 3D model. In so doing, the purpose
    is also to demonstrate to our students the need to approach all historical
    forms of representation critically. For subscribers interested in the aims
    and history of the project, I would invite them to consult our web site's
    project description at:


    In his posting Francois raised the question of the project's "exhibition
    potential", namely the possibility of creating a web-site devoted to an
    inter-institutional display of student work. He and others may be
    interested to know that this is one of the goals of the 3D Virtual Buildings
    Project. The project began in 1998, and is a joint initiative of the
    National Research Council of Canada <http://www.nrc.ca/>, Canada's Digital
    Collections <http://collections.ic.gc.ca/>, Canada's SchoolNet
    <http://www.schoolnet.ca/>, and the Institute of Canadian Studies
    <http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/cdn/> at the University of Ottawa. We
    have established a web site containing an array of tutorials designed to
    facilitate 3D Model construction and student historical research in
    archives. With the assistance of the National Archives of Canada
    <http://www.archives.ca/>, we have created a on-line version of its tutorial
    Using Archives
    which provides an introduction to the basics of conducting archival
    research. The materials at present are suitable for upper-level
    undergraduate university courses, although in future we will endeavour to
    generate materials suitable for high school and entry-level college and
    university courses.

    We have also provided space on our site for participants to display historic
    re-constructions of whatever city they choose to represent. We have
    provided a means to demonstrate both highly detailed CAD models, and more
    rudimentary representations in VRML. While our materials are on-line, we
    will not officially inaugurate the site for another two months until we have
    completed our site prototype of a historic urban environment, the business
    district of Ottawa, Sparks Street as it existed in 1878. We are also
    working on improving the navigability of the site. Individuals looking for
    more information are encouraged to contact me at john.bonnett@nrc.ca, or by
    phone at 1 (613) 998-3576.

    Below are links to the various sections of the site. Comments are welcome.
    Individuals wishing to examine the site's 3D models will need to use a
    Netscape 4.x browser, and the Cosmo Player VRML plug-in. Viewers will also
    need QuickTime VR. (Links to obtain the required software can be accessed
    in the Optimal Viewing
    <http://cfml.iit.nrc.ca/3DVirtualBuildings/OptView.html> section of our web
    site.) Unfortunately, it was not possible to create a site that worked for
    all combinations of browsers and plug-ins.

    To see the project's various tutorials, including the 3D Modelling Tutorial,
    please see:


    The research tutorial, Using Archives, can be accessed at:


    To see the site's 3D models, users will need a DSL connection or higher to
    the Internet. Users with 56 K modems or lower are encouraged to view
    graphic and QuickTime VR representations of the site's models at the URL
    below. Unfortunately, we do not yet have written material associated with
    the site's models, though material will be provided by the time the site is
    launched. Our interface has been constructed, however, to enable the
    posting of written work and digitised primary sources in conjunction with
    the models via the interface's "Building History" link. Graphic
    representations of the site's models can be seen at:


    The site's 3D models can can be accessed at the URL below. On the first
    page, select "1878", then select the shaded region of the Ottawa city map.
    Users will then see their screen divided into three sections, with a search
    engine on the left, a map in the middle, and the site's 3D models on the
    right. The search engine enables users to locate the various types of shops
    that were located on the street, everything from tobacconists, to tin smith
    shops, to barristers. Select a shop, and press the "Go" button. Once the
    search engine generates a list, select one of the hits, and the site will
    highlight its locale on the 2D map, and the 3D representation on the right.
    It will also generate an applet with potential links to essays, historic
    documents, source photographs, and Quick Time VR representations of the


    Once again, many thanks to Francois Lachance for his interest and commentary
    on the project.

    With best wishes,

    John Bonnett

    PhD Candidate
    Department of History, University of Ottawa

    Visiting Worker
    National Research Council of Canada
    Institute for Information Technology
    Building M-50, Montreal Rd.
    Ottawa, ON K1A-0R6
    (613) 998-3576
    fax: (613) 952-7151
    e-mail: john.bonnett@nrc.ca

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