Topic ID #24958 - posted 11/23/2012 2:58 AM

Preserving History, Byte by Byte

Jennifer Palmer

 Preserving History, Byte by Byte
Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 1:00pm by Jessica Hsu

Completed in 1791, the Mission Dolores is the oldest building in San Francisco. It has survived major earthquakes in the past, writes Alexis Coe, but preservationists are worried about its fate and have begun digitally preserving the landmark.

"It isn't a matter of if, but when," warns Andy Galvan, curator at the Mission Dolores. His great-great-great-great grandparents helped build the mission established under Father Junipero Serra, "the controversial Spanish Franciscan friar." Even though the historic structure underwent major conservation work from 1993 to 1995, notes Coe, there aren't enough funds to complete the full scope of necessary work before the next big earthquake. The mission is now being digitally preserved by CyArk, an Oakland-based nonprofit that "seeks to preserve cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving and providing open access to data gleaned via laser scanning and digital modeling."

Elizabeth Lee, the operations director at Cyark, led a two-day "field capture phase" late last summer. "Using terrestrial scanners, a Leica C10 and the Faro Focus 3D," explains Coe, "she and her colleagues from CyArk started from the outside in, paying special attention to the cemetery which holds more than 5,000 remains, including the first native born governor of Alta California, Luis Antonio Arg├╝ello, and Charles Cora and James Casey, who were hanged by the infamous San Francisco Committee of Vigilance." They team also found "an abundance of material culture and environmental data" that "offered a glimpse into the building practices of the missions"; and a mural of abstract patterns and Christian imagery that would need to be fully documented. "I hope we'll never have to use it for reconstruction, but if we do, we'll breathe a sigh of relief," says Galvan.

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