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7 Aug 2019

Using tech to protect the Hill House

Written by Sophia Mirashrafi
A woman in a hi-vis jacket holds an Ipad in the drawing room at the Hill House
Sophia Mirashrafi, the new Digital Project Officer at the Hill House
Over the next two years Sophia Mirashrafi, the Hill House’s Digital Project Officer, will use digital technologies to tell new stories about this old house.

I’m jointly employed by Historic Environment Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, and am based at the Engine Shed, the conservation and heritage innovation centre in Stirling. This is the first collaboration of its kind between these two heritage giants and the Hill House provides a perfect playground for organisational collaboration, digital innovation and virtual exploration.

After gaining an MSc in Digital Heritage at the University of York, I moved to Scotland to complete a year-long internship with Historic Environment Scotland in their Digital Innovation team. Through this, I gained skills in digital documentation through laser-scanning and photogrammetry, as well as taking that data forward to create 3D models, virtual tours, soundscapes and more.

Over the next couple years, I’ll be using these digital technologies to create a highly accurate 3D survey of the building for conservation and educational purposes. This data will allow us to tell new and complex stories about the Hill House, from its past use as a dwelling house to its future conservation.

The Box structure over the Hill House on a sunny day
The Box which is protecting the Hill House

Scientific collaboration

Working closely with the Conservation Science team at Historic Environment Scotland, I’ll examine how microwave moisture monitoring and thermal imaging mapped onto 3D data can aid in the visualisation of the level of damp in the house as it slowly begins to dry out inside its protective Box.

Digital foundations

The first phase in all of this is to collect the 3D data, which will act as the foundation to the project.

In a packed four days, me and my colleague Al Rawlinson conducted a survey of the house. In that time we managed to take around 13,000 photographs and 200 scans of the building.

Al worked his way through the building with a Z+F laser scanner, digitally recording the house from top to bottom with up to millimetre accuracy. Unlike previous surveys, he also took thermal photography to layer over each scan, which will allow us to create a model of thermal data for the whole house.

While Al was scanning, I took hundreds of photographs of the inside and outside of the house to layer onto the 3D model and create a photorealistic texture to the virtual environment.

3D scan of the Hill House with thermal imaging superimposed onto the gable end showing areas of damp
3D scan of the Hill House with thermal imaging superimposed onto the gable end showing areas of damp

Next steps

Now that we’ve captured the majority of the data, the real work begins. Wading through the hundreds of scans, photographs and scientific data is the next step in creating a solid foundation to the digital project moving forward.

The Hill House not only holds historical significance, but also offers an unprecedented conservation story. Combined, these lend themselves perfectly to innovative digital storytelling, from augmented reality to virtual tours.

Watch this space to see where this project takes us!

You can follow our progress on Twitter.

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