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A Cathedral and a Cottage - Digitally preserving Notre Dame and the Everly Brothers Childhood Home

They've both been digitally preserved!

Notre Dame 3D scan (100%), Everly Brothers Childhood Home 3D scan (70-80% complete)

Architecture exudes permanence and the general public's perception of its everlastingness and invincibility can seem more believable when tangible examples of centuries-old, time and war-tested global landmarks exist. We have a great respect for the age and authenticity of buildings, whether they are a 12th-century Gothic cathedral or an early 20th-century clapboard cottage, and despite their perceived unchangingness, an evolution continues every day at the surface and beneath. Building pathology reveals that historic buildings are hosts to different rates of change among their many layers, and their performance affected by time, nature and humankind.

“(...) the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, of mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity.” - John Ruskin, “The Lamp of Memory”, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849)

Last week's devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral reminds us of the vulnerability of our built heritage and that we must always remain conscious stewards in our care of it, including preparing for the unimaginable. In addition to preventative maintenance and disaster preparedness planning, 3D laser scanning technology is becoming more widely available to digitally preserve the built environment in its current condition and nuanced materiality, providing an invaluable historical account for present and future preservation efforts. A specific and timely example of its real-world application will be the vital role in informing the restoration and reconstruction of Notre Dame.

In 2015, late art historian Andrew Tallon digitally mapped Notre Dame Cathedral using sophisticated laser mapping methods. Alongside additional documentation relating to past preservation treatments, as well as photographs and measured drawings, this analysis will provide a more complete picture of the cathedral's condition before the fire.

Credit: Andrew Tallon/Vassar College

WATCH: Tallon in action, digitally capturing the Washington National Cathedral:

In September 2017, I enlisted the help of Dr. Michelle Wienhold and Adam Skibbe from the University of Iowa to digitally preserve the Everly Brothers Childhood Home. Michelle and Adam enthusiastically accepted my invitation and visited Shenandoah, Iowa to scan the house and give a pubic demonstration during Shenfest, the community's annual fall celebration.

Sept. 23, 2017 - Preservationists at work! Michelle and Adam at the Everly Brothers Childhood Home.

Michelle and Adam used terrestrial LIDAR (Light Imaging Detection and Ranging) technology that utilizes lasers to scan and collect extremely accurate point locations. The information they've gathered will result in a true 3D representation (as-built/current conditions documentation) of the home and its surroundings for online viewing and future preservation planning.

This was my first experience with 3D laser scanning and learning about the process with Michelle and Adam was completely fascinating and so much fun!

While the work is about 70-80% complete, here are some screenshots and a video I'd taken while toggling through data Adam sent me in late January and yesterday. The humble 15' x 20' footprint of the Everly Brothers childhood home is now digitally captured and preserved for posterity, and that information will serve as an important guide in the future integrity of its maintenance and operation as the only house museum dedicated to rock and roll pioneers Don and Phil Everly!

WHAT'S NEXT? I look forward to sharing another update with you when the rendering is finished and a 3D model of the house has been printed (hopefully in time for our second annual Everly Heritage Day on June 22nd in Shenandoah)! Michelle and Adam will be there to tell (and show!) you more about this exciting initiative! Click here for event information and to purchase tickets.

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