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Bodie Digital Preservation Project Earns CITRIS Grant

April 25, 2016

Bodie is being recreated in 3-D by Professor Nicola Lercari and his team.UC Merced Professor Nicola Lercari is leading an effort to preserve, through 3-D renderings, the deteriorating ghost town of Bodie.

Thanks to $60,000 in seed funding from the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), Lercari and his team will be continuing and expanding the project for another year.

Some of the buildings in Bodie — once a thriving mining town near the California-Nevada border — have been carefully preserved for visitors to the Bodie State Historic Park. The rest, exposed to the elements for more than 130 years, are in danger of being lost forever due to decay or wildfire.

Using drones, airborne laser-scanning technology, digital sensors and photography, Lercari and his team are recreating Bodie in three dimensions. From individual artifacts to the park’s topography, archaeologists are working alongside land surveyors and drone operators to capture a level of detail that was previously unimaginable.

VIDEO: Impact | Digital Preservation in Historic Bodie

Park officials plan to make the interactive digital renderings available in the Bodie visitor center, and an augmented-reality app and Web app will bring the town to life for scientists and the public worldwide.

UC Merced’s new Classroom and Office Building 2 will include additional lab space and a massive, semicircular display made up of 20 55-inch screens that will enable visitors, students and researchers to virtually travel through cultural heritage sites and inspect ancient artifacts.

The researchers will also explore ways to educate the public about Bodie using the renderings in mobile apps and online games, and to encourage public interaction both at the park and remotely through social media.

“These technologies have the capacity to call public attention to critical social issues and build constituencies,” Lercari said. “Aligning with the CITRIS Connected Communities Initiative, this project leverages a combination of mobile app technologies, augmented reality and social media to promote collaborative governance and public engagement in Bodie’s preservation.”

Lercari, a world heritage professor in the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, has partnered with UC Merced’s Mechatronics, Embedded Systems and Automation Lab on the project.