Archeologist Using 3-D Imaging on Alberta's Historic Past in Canada
Dr. Peter Dawson
Source: The Calgary Sun
A University of Calgary archeologist is using three-dimensional digital imaging to preserve and restore Alberta's unique history. Peter Dawson, a professor in the department of Anthropology and Archaeology, is working with Alberta Culture and Tourism to record digital images, from endangered heritage sites like the Okotoks Erratic rock formation to a historic buildings like the Chinese laundromat in Fort Macleod. "When people talk about archaeology, they think about picks and shovels. But we have access to all kinds of technology now that helps us preserve the past," Dawson said. "It's important, because our history is part of our identity. Often you might overlook buildings or sites you walk by everyday because you may not understand their stories. "But these are all physical manifestations of cultural diversity that define our province." Dawson explained his research team uses a "terrestrial laser scanner" which is much like a 3D camera which emits millions of points of laser lights to record the image and store it digitally. The best part, Dawson adds, is that researchers can return to a site several times, taking a number of images and recording the changes over time to see whether there have been any negative impacts like erosion, severe weather, or too much human use. "We can scan these sites at different points in time and compare them and look for any significant changes," Dawson said. Alberta Culture and Tourism can then work to implement the necessary interventions to protect them. And that's especially important in Alberta, he added, where we've seen a lot of damage to our ecosystem recently, from the southern floods of 2013, to the northern wildfire of 2016. The technology can also record images of historic buildings, even if they're no longer fully intact, through imaging that can "reverse engineer" or reconstruct a former location. Dawson has re-engineered a Chinese laundromat in Fort Macleod as well as the McDougall Memorial United Church near Cochrane, both built in the late 1800s. The technology will allow Albertans and tourists to take a virtual tour of both sites, as if they were still in existence, through a unique computer program.