I am a huge believer in technology and how it can be used in the preservation field. I really enjoyed a recent National Trust article about Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in Minecraft. So I will tell you a story about how a virtual world got me interested in historic preservation and inspired my return to grad school. This is me. Well, my digital self in a virtual world called Second Life. It has been around for 13 years now and I rezzed (created my avatar) 10 years ago after hearing about its creative possibilities. I wanted to build and taught myself how to make 3D creations within it. I wasn’t the only one. There is a community of architects who use SL, Unity 3D, OpenSim and other virtual worlds as platforms to convert their CAD drawings, 3D models and blueprints to create virtual prototypes of RL projects that clients can actually visit and walk through and use as learning experiences. SL builders also re-create historic structures as well, such as the Farnsworth House:
Involvement in virtual worlds is still so often dismissed or looked upon with derision, so when I applied to grad school years ago I wasn’t sure about mentioning it at first. I took a chance. A big one. I wasn’t sure what the committee would think of those few paragraphs, but I felt it was worth mentioning. I talked about how I was a part of a community of builders inworld who re-create historic buildings, such as the Union League of Philadelphia (I don’t remember its builder.)
I re-created the Martinson House Cabin Museum in Poulsbo, Washington; the Antelope Church in Oregon (that I turned into a virtual museum of historic preservation); the Monterrey, CA canneries; the Yaquina Bay light house; and more. I also created textures based upon photos from real-life sites I’d visited. I even had markers around the town where visitors could find out more about the structures’ real counterparts. I had created a virtual landmarks program…probably one of the first! As I result, I went on to join the National Trust for Historic Preservation in real life and encouraged others to as well. My inworld involvement made me more aware of historic preservation efforts and I hoped it inspired others to pay more attention to them too. As in real life, many of these builds are often lost, such as this re-creation of Cincinnati Union Terminal (Builder: TotalLunar Eclipse):
Last year I attended the Goucher Forum on Historic Preservation and after one of the panels, I showed the presenters the pic above of my church and cabin. They immediately exclaimed “You’re a Builder!!!” They knew. There is so much potential, especially going forward with virtual reality tech such as those utilizing Samsung and PlayStation VR or Oculus Rift. I can’t wait to see where it goes and what might be done with it.
We all come into historic preservation in so many different ways. That was mine.