3 minute read / 55 minute webinar
In 2013, when Trimble’s Allyson McDuffie and Richard Hassler attended a London conference on documenting world cultural sites, they had no idea where the event would lead them.
By the fall of the following year, McDuffie; Director, Education and Outreach, Buildings, Civil Engineering and Geospatial; and Hassler; Market Manager, Geospatial; had embarked on a joint program using 3D laser scanning to digitally preserve 10 sites associated with the trans-Atlantic slave trade prior to the American Civil War.
The two Trimble managers described the project in a webinar that can be viewed below:
“We decided that since we make the equipment and the processing software to do this sort of work that we wanted to be involved in some way,” McDuffie said.
It was no easy task. As McDuffie pointed out, “I learned very quickly that I knew very little. During the slave trade, there was a forced migration of up to 15 million people to the western hemisphere. Thousands of examples of crimes against humanity, millions of death due to violence, bad conditions, forced labor, torture, and murder.”
The Trimble team, working with experts from academia and other partners, made a decision: they would focus primarily on collecting 3D scans and photos of slave dwellings as opposed to slave-owner mansions or estate homes. Very few of the slave houses are still standing or completely intact. Most are disappearing due to neglect; preserving them for history has become critical.
The team’s goal was to create an immersive experience, one that would tell the slave-trade story through 3D, allowing viewers––whether they’re browsing online or in a K-12 classroom––to walk in slaves’ shoes.
The data collection began in the stifling heat and humidity of Natchez, Mississippi and has continued in the years since. To date, McDuffie, Hassler, and others have documented about 25 individual structures at seven sites throughout the southeast U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands plus a replica of an 18th century British slave ship.
The team employs many different tools on each site, depending on the logistics and terrain. The Trimble TX-8 3D laser scanner plays a significant role. McDuffie and Hassler also have used the Trimble UX5 drone to capture particularly long and complex sites. The captured point clouds are loaded into SKETCHUP software to create 3D models.