A man scanning houses on St Kilda with a special laser scanner

One of the goals set out in our new Corporate Plan is ‘to fulfil a leading and enabling role in the sector’. We asked James and Lyn from the Digital Documentation team to explain how they do this in their day to day work.

James Hepher, Surveyor and Spatial Analyst
Historic Environment Scotland member of staff James Hepher using a laser scanner to digitally document the Antonine Wall

My job involves using 3D scanners to digitally document buildings and monuments in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, helping us build up a complete picture of each site. This data can be used in a number of ways, but our main goal is to have a full record of the condition of the estate. This helps us care for it.

After scanning a site, we can use computer software to overlay our new 3D images over old ones. This helps highlight changes, like landslip and erosion. We can use these images to demonstrate physical change on the historic environment that could be caused by environmental factors, such as climate change.

Plan view of the point cloud showing the Bay of Skaill. The outline of the Neolithic village is marked on the plan and the wall highlighted with brighter colours

We’re also working to document parts of the HES collection of objects and artefacts. These can be made available online, and we also have a 3D printer, which means that after scanning artefacts we can print them out. This makes the collection more accessible, for example to people who are partially sighted, because it allows them to handle exact replicas.

Accessibility is very important, and we want our data to be used. Our virtual reality headsets, developed together with Glasgow School of art, are a great example of how we can use that data creatively. The headsets let you virtually visit a site like the Antonine Wall and enjoy a 360 degree view based on very accurate data, meaning it’s as real as it can be.

Two children using virtual reality headsets to explore a 3D digital recreation of the Antonine Wall
My hope is that when people see the technology, especially kids, it will spark their imagination – inspiring them to wonder ‘what else can we do with this?’

Dr Lyn Wilson, Digital Documentation Manager

In this short video, Dr Lyn Wilson talks a bit more about developing virtual reality applications with our partners at Glasgow School of Art, helping people around the world gain access to Scotland’s historic sites digitally.

Have you got a #HESstory to share? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.


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Ali George

Ali's role is to coordinate our social media and blog content, helping tell the many stories of Historic Environment Scotland in new and interesting ways.