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Old May 1 2013, 08:05 PM   #1
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Location: Washington State
Digital Recreations of Historical Places


Fairly high up on the list of things I'd do if I won the lottery would be to make a digital model of San Francisco's 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, or "Midwinter Fair" for short. For those familiar with SF, it was the first of three world's fairs held there to date, taking place in Golden Gate Park. The Music Councourse area, with its De Young and Academy of Sciences museums, was constructed for the Fair, as was the Japanese Tea Garden. The handful of web sites devoted to the Fair, each with a few small pictures, hardly do justice to the site, but here are a few links anyhow.

I have a small Images of America book full of awesome photos of the Fair, but what I really want to do is see it "in person", as it were. I'm thinking of a first-person computer simulation, ideally one built and powered entirely by open-source software and models, that would allow one to experience the Fair in as realistic an environment as possible. And then there'd be the extras: a model of the Park area as it looks today, that one could toggle back and forth between, markers that would allow one to approach and view real photos of the fair as seen from their point of origin, and of course historical annotations and links to further reading and the like. (And, for those interested, the ability to load such environments into whatever open-source video games you may be into.)

Unfortunately, I really know nothing about 3D modeling or even contemporary games, so I can't yet contribute anything beyond conceptual brainstorming for such a project, though a quick googling shows that several open-source first person shooter game engines do in fact exist. And what'd be really awesome would be if this sort of thing really took off, and groups of people around the world started building similar historical recreations based upon a common digital foundation - a Wikipedia of Historical Sites, as it were. In addition to the Midwinter Fair, I'd love to see San Francisco's other two expos get the same treatment, along with such areas as Roman Forum as it was in Ceasar's day, the Titanic, Roman Londinium, and other places and times. I think it could be a great educational tool, and eventually, one could even go to present-day historical sites and use one's phone to "look" right into the past.

Has anyone else had similar thoughts? Anyone else have any bygone or radically-changed places you wish you could poke around and explore?
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