Preserving Culture through Photogrammetry at SXSW 2018

Understanding a culture starts with interpreting the objects it creates.  Right now there is a big conversation happening in the tech world about its role in preserving those objects. At a SXSW workshop with Arc/k Project Founder Brian Pope and photogrammetry specialists from his non-profit, participants discussed the importance of preserving cultural heritage through photogrammetry-the use of photography in surveying and mapping to measure distances between objects. These digital preservations have many applications, including virtual reality, and are a way to preserve in 3D what may no longer exist in the physical realm.


We’ve started to dig into photogrammetry at Isobar by working with The Heidelberg project, an outdoor art environment in the heart of an urban area in Detroit that scales a city block. The art project is entering a new phase in its life cycle, and before some of the structures change or are removed, Isobar hopes to help preserve them through photogrammetry.

This relatively low cost of photogrammetry (objects can be captured with any 8 megapixel or higher camera, including a smart phone) provides a democratic tool for anyone to begin work on preservation and become what Brian Pope calls a “citizen scientist.”

Institutions and museums are often times weary about implementing this form of digital preservation, as there are no universal standards for 3D quality, and production companies who complete the photogrammetry can have uncertain futures, which is at odds with preservation efforts. Quality assessment and knowledge sharing through workshops like today’s help to move the efforts in the right direction, and agencies like Isobar can help to make community impact by preserving the legacy of the culture at large.