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Old May 1 2013, 08:05 PM   #1
Gaith
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Digital Recreations of Historical Places

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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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Old May 1 2013, 08:13 PM   #2
Spot's Meow
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

I think you might like a site called Historypin. One of its features is very similar to what you suggest, though not exactly an elaborate 3D environment. If you go to the map you can see where people have added historical photos. Some of the photos have a little Google Street View symbol on them (the orange little man), and if you click on it then you can see the current and historic photos overlayed. There's even a bar along the bottom you can drag left and right to increase or decrease the overlay. Very interesting stuff! It looks like there are quite a few in San Francisco.
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Old May 3 2013, 03:59 PM   #3
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

^Hm. Looks like a well-intentioned effort, but I'm not sure any site that lists one of their main projects as "Is your Gran, Grandad, Nan or Pops awesome? Add your grandparents to our Hall of Fame" really has the focus and vision necessary to break through the endless bayous of user-generated fluff and produce something valuable. Maybe they'll refine and evolve over time.

Anyhow, mapping historical photos is all well and good, and there've been some very nice SF mashup pictures here and there, but grounding one's focus in primary source photographs is of course pretty limiting... Which is why we could really use some full-on, totally interactive 3D models!
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Old May 3 2013, 04:48 PM   #4
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

I find the "user-generated fluff" to be pretty fascinating, because it encourages people to engage in history and collect memories for future reference. Personal history is just as much a part of our collective past as the words written by historians. Each of these accounts of someone's memory of their grandparents is creating a primary source document that can later be found and absorbed on an individual and personal level by a family member, or on a collective narrative level by a researcher. It represents the "history from the bottom up" approach that has become popular in the last several years, and although I also think it would be helpful to have projects created and distributed by professional historians, I think that there is still an important place for this kind of user generated historical content.
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Old May 4 2013, 08:32 AM   #5
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

I've always been fascinated by the Crystal Palace, which was originally in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition before being moved to south London and giving the area where it was rebuilt a new name (and a so-so soccer team ). Something about the scale of it, the Victorian romanticism...



I also have a thing for the Watts Towers in LA.
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Old May 5 2013, 04:45 PM   #6
Gaith
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

Spot's Meow wrote: View Post
I find the "user-generated fluff" to be pretty fascinating, because it encourages people to engage in history and collect memories for future reference. Personal history is just as much a part of our collective past as the words written by historians.
I entirely agree in sentiment, but fluff is fluff. I've got nothing but respect for those who, say compose modest but engaging personal memoirs in their old age, and encourage their family members to do the same. I wish my departed grandparents had written such pieces, and I've encouraged my grandfather to do so also, but he didn't think much of the idea.

The thing is, like anything else, good history takes work, and I don't see an extremely vague web site encouraging any visitor who happens to surf by to post a picture or two of their "awesome nans" is likely to produce or even inspire anything of value.



lurok wrote: View Post
I've always been fascinated by the Crystal Palace, which was originally in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition before being moved to south London and giving the area where it was rebuilt a new name (and a so-so soccer team ). Something about the scale of it, the Victorian romanticism...
Ooh, good one. And not unrelated to my suggestions, as the Palace was built for the first World's Fair. I could definitely see an app that would allow visitors to Hyde Park to "see" and take pictures with the Palace from all angles.
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Old May 6 2013, 07:41 AM   #7
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

That would be a cool app. In my fantasies, I had hopes some maverick public figure might have had the balls to suggest a fascimile be reconstructed one day. But unlikely in these times of austerity.

I guess someone somewhere has digitally recreated the Seven Wonders of Ancient World? They're probably the obvious ones to do.
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Old May 8 2013, 05:50 AM   #8
Candlelight
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

Ok, this is being sneaky but...

http://skororu.deviantart.com/art/st...cise-361227196

Blake's 7 fans will love it.
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Old May 8 2013, 12:18 PM   #9
CmdrAJD
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Re: Digital Recreations of Historical Places

The Urban Simulation Team at UCLA has been working on a couple of historical recreations as well as their more modern projects. I've been fascinated with the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago ever since I read "The Devil in the White City," and the UCLA folks have been building an amazing digital version of it.

http://www.ust.ucla.edu/ustweb/projects.html
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