Virtual American History Is Next Focus of Humanities Technology Group

October 23, 2008

October 23, 2008 — After completing "Rome Reborn," its acclaimed computer model of Rome as it appeared in A.D. 320, the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities is focusing on cultural heritage closer to home.

In September, IATH unveiled new digital models illustrating the evolution of President James Madison's home, Montpelier, from boyhood to his retirement. The models were featured at the Sept. 17 gala opening of the newly restored site and remain in use in Montpelier's new visitor center.

On Sept. 10, the Institute for Museum and Library Services announced a grant of $943,090 to IATH and Colonial Williamsburg to launch "Virtual Williamsburg," a project whose goal is to create an interactive computer model of Virginia's Revolutionary War capital.

According to the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the new grant will fund three-dimensional models of five historic sites within Colonial Williamsburg, and scanned, digitized facades of 23 buildings to create a complete streetscape.

The interactive models will allow visitors — both the general public and historians — to experience the historical sites through virtual re-creations that access the wealth of historical documentation amassed by Williamsburg scholars.

"IATH is proud to be the partner of Colonial Williamsburg in 'Virtual Williamsburg,'" IATH director Bernard Frischer said. "We are grateful to the IMLS for the support it has given. Clearly, Virtual Williamsburg — like virtual Rome — will take many years to complete. Thanks to the IMLS, we are off to a strong start."

— By Jane Ford