This weekend the HES survey team returned home after a hectic and busy week in Shetland, having completed recording Jarlshof and ticking off a few more Rae Project sites on the way. My supervisor Dr Andy Wilson joined me in taking things a bit easier with just one laser scanner on site at Old Scatness over the last few days, and we’re happy to have completed all our scan surveying on site just in time for his Loganair flight back to Bradford!
With just my lone self still here in Shetland (but enjoying it all thoroughly!), I needed some help to complete my fieldwork, so my PhD supervisor Dr Val Turner from Shetland Amenity Trust helped put me in touch with the group Archaeology Shetland https://www.archaeologyshetland.org/, and two of their members kindly offered to help me conduct a photographic survey of the wall tops of Old Scatness – as these areas were tricky to reach/impossible to laser scan.
Over a day and a half we had the best weather for photography (no wind and mostly overcast!). It was great working with local archaeology enthusiasts who are so keen to be on the site and learn more about how it is being researched. Both picked up on the best ways to stabilise, angle and position mast-mounted DSLR cameras very quickly to take photos over the structures (it’s aerial photography without flight!). I hope it was a useful and interesting new experience for them to conduct this kind of survey! We really got through all the structures and features at an impressive rate given the number of complex features we had to record!
Well over 1500 shots after (!), we’ve now got very good coverage of all the areas that terrestrial laser scanners can’t reach, as well as high quality colour images of much of the site. I hope to use the photos in combination with the scans to create a far more comprehensive 3D dataset than just the scans alone.
For the last few days I’ve been on the Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) consortium’s historic environment field course. This year Historic Environment Scotland (HES) Survey and Recording team have been guiding us CDP PhD researchers around the big city of Glasgow, which, as we’ve learned over the last few days, is steeped in multi-faceted history. From Pictish and early medieval stone monuments at Govan Old Parish Church to the industrial booms and it’s influences on the architecture and layout of the city over the 18th to 20th centuries, we’ve really swooped through the city’s past by looking at it’s upstanding buildings!
We began the course on Tuesday with a walking tour of the city’s architecture, highlighting the different styles and influences present, including the famous Glasgow style associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his peers. With the terrible fire that took place two weekends ago, we sadly couldn’t get up close to the Glasgow School of Art as we had planned to, but the HES staff, particularly Iain, did an amazing job of finding last minute alternative activities for us. We visited The Lighthouse, which has a good display of some of Mackintosh’s architectural designs and some stunning views of the city from up high.
Afterwards we were given a guided tour of the Glasgow Britannia Panopticon Music Hall, the oldest surviving music hall in Britain, which is being kept open and running by a team of enthusiastic volunteers. It was interesting to hear over the last few days the relationship such community groups have with the owners of such buildings, which are private, and the challenges of keeping places that have such significance to people maintained and open. Fingers crossed they can get funding to restore the upper floors.
In the afternoon we travelled to Govan to have metric survey demonstrations from HES’s Surveying and Recording team inside Govan Old Church. The church houses the third largest collection of early medieval stone sculpture in Scotland and I even had time to take photos for photogrammetry of one of the famous hogback stones – Viking grave markers so-named as their curved profile looks like the slope of a wild boar’s back. It was nice to give a demo to the other researchers of how I’m recording data for my PhD, and to have a low-res 3D model generated and up on Sketchfab by tea time! Link here for the model: https://sketchfab.com/models/03e3e061c31f4399b31c7b772da6ac06
I had a whistle-stop walk through the Riverside Museum, hopping over on the ferry from Govan! Such a striking design by Zaha Hadid (below).
I think we were all grateful for the slight drop in temperature in the evening as we embarked on a graffiti tour around the local area. Really interesting to hear about the ideas and reasons for the different types made by artists, and to look at graffiti through a cultural lens rather than as vandalism.
On Wednesday the temperatures soared to way past 25°C, so it was nice to be out and about strolling through Kelvingrove Park, hearing about the development of the area in the 19th century and how the surveying and recording teams have worked on various areas of the park, helping with regeneration of the band stand. We explored Kelvingrove Art Gallery too during lunch time, which houses an impressive collection of Mackintosh furniture (I didn’t have time to see the exhibit though)!
Later in the day we travelled to the east side of the city, to Bridgetown, to visit Glasgow Women’s Library. It sounds like the venue has some great events to engage with the local community and encourage its resources to be used by anyone. It’s location, in an ex-Carnegie library, is very appropriate too, and striking when comparing the sizes of the original separate mens’ and womens’ reading rooms (unsurprisingly, little space was dedicated for women in the past…).
Afterwards we explored more of the east end, passing old tenement buildings and dropping in to Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, which has a striking 1960s design with a deep sloping roof and ceiling. We were glad to be in the shade as the temperature climbed in the afternoon!
I’m going to start mentioning some of the highs and lows of my PhD research so it paints a better picture of how things are going (rather than appearing like a glorified holiday album!) so one of the main lows of the day was definitely being bitten by a horsefly as we headed for dinner… I thought I’d be safe from the bugs in the middle of a city!
Tea was in a German-style brewpub located in a former carpet factory, which has a lovely Venetian façade! Nice to have authentic tasting currywurst after visiting Tubingen earlier this year! The apple strudel portions were on the generous size too!
Despite the soaring temperature (30°C!) me and a few other brave and keen students decided to plough on and also visit Glasgow Necropolis. Feeling very vampiric as we hopped between the tallest, shadiest tombs and monuments to keep out of the sunlight, we had a very informative tour from the Chair of the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis group, and it was good to hear about all the conservation work organised by this volunteer group to preserve the monuments.
On our last day we visited The Napiershall Centre, headquarters to the West of Scotland Regional Equality Council (WSREC) who work with diverse local communities to support people in all sorts of activities. Though the centre isn’t listed, it is historic, being based in an old school building with a large open central hall. The large spaces are ideal for various group activities and offices, but the building is in need of much TLC. As the building is owned by a private company it is under threat, and there is uncertainty for where WSREC will be based in the future.
Phew – a lot packed into such a short space of time! I think I’ve walked over 50,000 steps in the last three days alone! Once I made it to Stirling, for the next leg of my Scottish summer adventures, it was nice to head to the castle just to sit in the shade of a big tree in the Queen Anne Gardens and read for a while! A little bit of calm before travelling onwards to Shetland in the coming days. I’ll experiment with adding some shorter blog posts over the next week (to connect to Twitter) as my summer PhD fieldwork goes underway. Let’s see if I can keep it up!
I was kindly invited to present at a CPD session on introducing Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry to beginners at this years CIfA Conference, by the Graphic Archaeology Group. It was a great opportunity to network, catch up with colleagues and hear about exciting new research using the technique, plus all of the advice and tips for using SFM were valuable not just to beginners but to anyone who’s using the method for recording archaeology and heritage! I shared my learning experiences from my time with Historic England, in addition to covering some of the interesting findings we made in my research reports (click here for link) and also gave a brief sneak preview of my PhD plan.
The session on managing World Heritage was also particularly insightful, as the three wonderful brochs I’m researching are all on the UK’s tentative WHS list!
26th-30th September. After an epic drive down south (in 7 and a half hours!) I arrived in Penzance with David and Fiona from Historic England’s Geospatial Imaging team, for a week of surveying Iron Age courtyard houses, unique to the Lands End peninsula and the Isles of Scilly, on the famous site of Chysauster. The houses all had a central open courtyard area, with several rooms attached. More information on the site can be found on English Heritage’s webpage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/chysauster-ancient-village/.
The layouts of these very impressive structures are very complex – there’s even a semi-detached house! So they were quite challenging to record, but armed with plan drawings and context sheets, we sucessfully laser scanned three of the houses with the most upstanding, exposed stonework and took photographs for SFM photogrammetry, as a record of their current condition.
The weather also took a turn for the dramatic, and I was very thankful for my wellies as torrential downpours and sweeping mists arrived at the start of the survey. On a clear day, the views from the village are spectacular – you can see all the way to Penzance and the coast beyond, but then the fog was thick, I could barely see past the walls of the house I was recording!
Luckily, the sun was out on the last day of the survey, and we ended with a site visit to another Iron Age village site, called Carn Euny, to see the fogou (an underground passageway with a large, central chamber). Chysauster also has a fogou, but this has been sealed up for safety. The purpose of these structures is not clear, but the main theories suggest they were either storage areas, places of refuge in times of warfare, or special religious places.
The week before last, Historic England welcomed a visit from our Historic Environment Scotland (HES) colleague, Sofia Antonopoulou. We had a packed schedule for her to visit some of the sites that the Geospatial Imaging team has previously surveyed around North Yorkshire, including Clifford’s Tower, Rievaulx Abbey and Mount Grace Priory.
We also photographed artefacts in the care of English Heritage’s North Territory store at Helmsley, for SfM photogrammetry. The object in question is a curious little 19th century wooden box, that had been decorated with wax seals taken from medieval stamps that had originated from Fountains Abbey. I’m in the process of generating the 3D models at the moment, so it’ll be really interesting to see how Photoscan copes in processing all of the slight details in each seal design, which range from the personal seal of an abbot’s signet ring to depictions of the Virgin and Child.
We also returned to Bellman Park in Clitheroe, six months after the team’s first survey of the area, to collect the next epoch of laser scans at this Heritage at Risk site. The grass had really shot up since December, but we managed to scan the entire structure in a day.
We rounded off the week with a trip further south, to the Natural History Museum (NHM) and their science department, to see how their researchers are using scanning electron microscopes to gather imagery of microscopic features for SfM photogrammetry and other visual techniques for research, such as producing CT scans. Overall it’s been a very hectic but enjoyable week!
This Tuesday I presented the finished 3D models of three scheduled standing crosses in Leek town centre to the West Midlands Historic England office and Staffordshire Historic Environment Record. I’m pleased to say I can share the results on my blog, via Sketchfab, so click on the links below to open them:
May has been a very busy month for me – I’ve been attending and presenting at conferences up and down the country, so I’m catching up with my blogging this week with some of the geospatial industry conferences I attended a couple of weeks ago.
ESRI UK 2016
I went to ESRI UK 2016 on 17th May to find out about the latest developments from the company behind ArcGIS, and how they are bringing SfM photogrammetry and laser scanning into their platforms. It’s interesting to see how many programmes are moving into cloud-based formats, and the process of displaying and editing GIS data is being streamlined in their WebGIS. It will be interesting to trial the capabilities of Drone2Map – ESRI’s own SfM processing software to generate DTMs, currently on beta.
Geo Business 2016
I travelled back down to London two weeks ago to attend Geo Business – a major conference and geomatics expo, showcasing the latest new technologies and innovations for the geospatial sector. The conference was a great insight into how all of the techniques I am being trained in at Historic England can be used in different disciplines and industries other than in heritage.
I saw some very exciting demonstrations of new handheld mobile mapping solutions, and new software for the processing of laser scan data to a very high resolution (I must state I do not endorse any particular manufacturer of such equipment!). All in all, it was fascinating to find out the latest developments in these industries, and I’ll definitely be attending next year to see what new technologies are going to appear…