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The Growing Virtual Heritage projects of New Zealand (Part 2)

[12.5.2006 | New Zealand]
Chris Keenan

The Growing Virtual Heritage projects of New Zealand

Virtual heritage is on the move in New Zealand. There have been several large 3D projects created over the last 36 months. They include a film about the historic forts of North Head as well as the "Guns of Motutapu" film project created for the Motutapu Restoration Trust working in cooperation with the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC). The government has been very supportive of these digital interpretive projects and the countries Prime Minister, Helen Clark, spoke at the launching of both films. VHN CMS

The North Head film originated out of a pilot project created by Auckland based 3D visualization experts, 4D Canvas. DOC became interested in the technology after Chris Keenan, founder of 4D Canvas, funded a six month project to research and build a virtual model of Fort Takapuna, circa 1895. "Having been heavily involved in virtual heritage projects for the State of California, the Fort Takapuna animation was created to develop interest from the NZ Government. This had the desired effect and we are building an increasing number of sites in 3D. We see a great future for virtual heritage in this country. We have taken on a new DOC project and have just received a Conservation Achievement Award from Chris Carter, Cabinet Minister in charge of Conservation, Housing and Ethnic Affairs.”

DOC historian Sarah Macready and DOC archaeologist Dave Veart were key to the North Head films success. Sarah is a believer in virtual heritage. "The department was keen to improve the quality of its interpretation, most of which consists of static interpretation panels, and having seen an example of Chris's work (Fort Takapuna and the disappearing guns) recognized the potential of this kind of 3D animated reconstruction in bringing the past to life for visitors. We think the film has been very successful in bringing colour, movement, interest and a far better understanding of what the fort looked like in the 19th century to our interpretation of North Head."

Virtual heritage created an effective "restoration" of these 1890 era forts without disturbing the fabric from other periods. This history includes early Maori settlements as well as WWI, WWII and post war military history. 3D animation was the only viable way to give context to the existing site as it had operated in the 1890's with its unusual configuration of rare “disappearing” guns. Dave Veart, the DOC archaeologist who also co-wrote and narrated the North Head film, has watched the reactions of hundreds of visitors as they view the film. "The project has been very successful. People varying in age from 8 to 80 have viewed the 16 minute film and the responses have been universally positive. Restoration of the forts in the virtual world has also had the effect of allowing us to understand these sites more completely, helping us to manage them more effectively."

The largest virtual heritage project completed in NZ is the 20 minute 3D film "The Guns of Motutapu". It is a story about Motutapu Island and NZ's most important WWII gun battery at the time of an anticipated Japanese attack. As one of the largest 3D heritage projects of its type in the world, it features an intensely detailed simulation of a 6” MK21 counter bombardment battery firing into the Hauraki Gulf. One lucky aspect of the project is that Major Derek Thorburn, who came to Motutapu in 1942 and rose to become commander of the guns, acted as a technical advisor to the project. As an actual eye witness to the history, he worked with the 3D artists to achieve a level of visual accuracy that was in danger of being lost forever. The film has proven hugely effective as a fund raising tool for the Motutapu Restoration Trust and its efforts to restore the island. As a result of this success the trust again contracted with 4D Canvas and a second Motutapu film has just been released.


Emerging Projects

4D Canvas has created these projects with interactivity in mind. As the funding becomes available these large 3D models can be re-purposed. There have been discussions to create multi-user educational games where students hunt for lost artefacts as they move forwards and backwards in time exploring the sites history, geology and ecology. Other potential projects under consideration include: The Maori stone fields of Auckland, Various Maori Pa (fortification) sites including Ruapekapeka Pa, site of a last major battle between Maori and British forces, the huge Stony Batter 9.2” gun battery, Mansion House, site of Governors Greys early NZ island paradise and early whaling stations of the South Island. The project currently under development includes an historic look at Rangitoto, the countries remarkable volcanic island.

New Zealand may be in a far corner of the globe but it is determined to help raise the visual quality standard of virtual heritage. In fact, with the country's exceptional 3D capability, it expects to attract heritage projects from overseas. The future of virtual heritage projects in NZ looks very bright indeed.

Further information: Chris Keenan 4D Canvas tel: 64 9 445 1480 / mob: 64 21 39 3900 email: address: 4D Canvas P.O. Box 32 290, Devonport, Auckland 0744 New Zealand

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2 responses to: "The Growing Virtual Heritage projects of New Zealand (Part 2)"
Monday, August 13, 2007
Kaylene Levack says:

Your vision is commendable, and desperately needed as an exciting interface between heritage site and audience. Well done to 4D Canvas! I will be intouch with you soon Chris.
Friday, February 16, 2007
diane duffey says:

I think this is a fabulous way to get people excited about cultural history. Great job!

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