There are no doubt plenty of altruistic reasons for scanning and documenting historically significant locations and objects: They are preserved for posterity; should harm come to them, they could possibly be recreated; by better knowing our history we are better able to improve in the future. But there is also the fact that the resulting point clouds and models are really cool to look at and play with.
That’s one of the reasons I loved CyArk’s collaboration with Zynga, and why I’m attracted to the cant of a new organization, the ArkHive, launching formally on Friday but live now, dedicated to laser scanning the UK’s (and elsewhere’s) historically significant sites. “ArkHive is an enthusiasts organisation,” the web site says by way of introduction. “The overall vision is to enable everybody to experience the key sites of cultural significance in the development of the human race and ignite the enthusiasm required to understand the past so that people are inspired to take the lessons and move forward.”
Yes, enthusiasm. What is it about point clouds and 3D visualization that people respond to? Something unquantifiable, but undeniable. It excites the imagination. A sense of wonder.
Founded initially by Andy Evans of Topcon and Nick Russill of Topcon dealer and service provider TerraDat, ArkHive has initially published four projects – St. Lythans Burial Chamber, Pen y Wyrlod, Trafalgar Square, and the Island Farm WW2 Escape Tunnel – and has plans in the works for another half dozen. Membership is free, though you need to ask for membership and be approved, and it is technically an unincorporated association, which means they can’t do anything as a legal entity or formally raise money or apply for grants or anything.
Initially, it sounds a lot like a Ham Radio operators club or something. Which is kind of cool, if you ask me. Contributions come in the form of scans or invitations to scan. You can read “the rules” here if you so choose.
In the meantime, check out what they’ve got posted. I’ve already learned something, personally. That Island Farm escape tunnel is the site of the largest escape of German PoWs during WW2, when, on March 10, 1945, 72 of them tunnelled to freedome from Camp 198 in Bridgend, South Wales. A little extra research turns up that they were all recaptured by March 16, but I can’t believe this hasn’t been a movie yet – imagine those five days in the local area, with German soldiers hiding out in every nook and cranny and apparently even children helping root them out. Crazy.
And here’s a great fly through to help stir that imagination further (if you’re using crap IE for a browser, it probably won’t work):
Where is the ArkHive eventually headed? We’ll find out. But, in the meantime, cheers to another effort to get laser scanning out in front of the masses and do a little good work along the way.