Imagine what the University of Richmond’s campus was like over a 100 years ago. Chris Kemp, the head of the Discovery, Technology, and Publishing department in Boatwright Library and his team have been working on documenting the history of the college for its’ centennial. They have done a fantastic job archiving and sharing historical artifacts of the university’s past. The DSL has been assisting Chris’s group with georeferencing historical campus maps for an upcoming project, which gives a spatial timeline of the university’s history. Since we had fairly detailed maps of campus buildings, roads and topology, what better way to envision the campus 100 years ago than a physical 3D model?
The base for any 3D model is the elevation data. The elevation data came from a 1911 survey map that was georeferenced, then digitized using various tools in ArcGIS. The contour lines were in 25’ intervals and covered all of campus as we know it today. Since this map only had contour lines and no buildings, we had to use a 1925 campus master plan map to obtain building footprints and road lines. Some buildings were deleted to reflect campus around the same time as the 1911 survey. These digitized footprints were then used in Google SketchUp to model basic building features. Buildings were not highly detailed because of the accuracy of the printer. The contour lines were converted to a TIN (Triangulated Irregular Network) to create a surface. The problem with converting the contours to a TIN was that the contour intervals were so large it created an unrealistic surface in certain portions of campus– some hand smoothing was needed in SketchUp before the model was printed to mitigate this. After the contours were converted to a surface they were imported into ArcScene and exported as a VRML file so it could be imported into Sketchup.
Once the TIN surface was exported out of ArcScene, it was passed on to Fred Hagemeister–the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technologies Research Analyst for 3D printing preparations. Once in SketchUp, the surface model was exaggerated 2x to highlight the topology of campus and given a graduated color ramp to show distinction between high and low elevations. Building footprints were added and the surface was ”graded” to better represent the buildings’ actual existence with the landscape. The buildings and roads were added and colored to add detail and the campus started to take shape. Buildings were colored red, if they still exist, and blue if they are no longer on campus. The final and probably the most daunting task was turning the surface from a sheet into a solid shell. Once a solid shell, it was then scaled down and sectioned into 12 pieces since the printer can only print an “8×8” piece. Below you will see the 3D printing process—from printing, to excavation, and finally, gluing.
With the power of GIS and collaborations between Boatwright Memorial Library, the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technologies, and the Digital Scholarship Lab we were able to take a paper survey map from 1911 and turn it into a physical 3D model. Two maps over a decade apart were stripped down to their raw data and rebuilt together to show a glimpse of what the University of Richmond might have looked like over a century ago. Check out Chris’s Blog to learn more about the project.