Scientists create digital models of World Heritage sites

Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:00am EDT
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By Stuart McDill

NEW LANARK, Scotland (Reuters Life!) - A team of British scientists is preparing to create a digital model of Mount Rushmore using laser scanning so that the iconic U.S. monument can be recreated were it to be damaged.

The survey work is part of a project to accurately record the exact dimensions of 500 of the most famous World Heritage Sites, including the Acropolis in Athens and the Great Wall of China.

The joint team, from the Glasgow School of Art and Historic Scotland, are currently surveying 10 World Heritage Sites in Britain before they aim their laser beams at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

There they will team up with members of the CyArk Foundation, a non-profit organization that has identified several 'at risk' World Heritage sites.

Mount Rushmore is on their list because of concerns over deterioration of the faces of four former presidents on the granite sculpture.

Laser scanning itself is not new but applying the technology to historic sites or buildings is a new approach.

"Initially these laser scanners were produced for things like refineries where there are lots of pipes and things or atmospheres that were difficult for humans to actually tolerate," Chris McGregor of Historic Scotland told Reuters Television.

"They hadn't really thought about the built heritage as being a market for such a machine but its use and the work that we are doing with it is really innovative and really exciting."   Continued...