Why Preservationists Are Mapping Detroit’s Historic Layer
Here we go, a preservation article I can really get behind. Sometimes I cone off as anti preservation, but I do really care about the documentation, study, and preservation if our cultural resources. Keeping these resources intact let's us learn from our mistakes. Stand on the shoulders of giants and all that. But on the other hand, we can't save everything. I take the position that developers and preservationists start prioritizing. Both groups need to start using the technology that is available to them and find that middle ground. It's easy to say, but seeing articles like this one make me think that it is achievable.
Obviously the part that stood out to me was how they are collecting data in the field. The think about historical home documentation is that you do not really need a good GPS signal. You do not need a signal at all. Having a data collector where you can interact with the parcel is all you really need. Keeping whatever preservation forms are required in a digital format can streamline the process and allow the field crew to cover far more area. More area, more coverage, better detail. Suddenly this streamlining allows complete coverage. Then you suddenly you are no longer in the salvage game. You are no longer reactionary, you are proactive and that is the perfect time to slam down your hand and affect development.
Other technology that I think would go great in urban historical preservation are the new clip on phone range finders that are out on the market. They are relatively cheap and are easy to learn how to use. They take advantage of the phones camera and GPS and can provide very accurate and spatially located imagery. They are basically really small LiDAR platforms. The benefit I see is that with a few camera shots you suddenly have a 3D image of the building. It may not be the greatest imagery, but it does allow you to come back with new technology and new methods to reevaluate the structure. It might not be much of a consolation, but you could also document an entire neighborhood that is scheduled for demolition and retain the data for future research. It provides a reasonable baseline for the character of the imagery and might even prove helpful in the future by showing what wholesale demolition can do to a neighborhood.
There are issues of privacy though. I do not think anyone would really appreciate having scruffy looking preservationists walking around their house taking pictures. But I think this is where community involvement can come in handy. When you give people the option I think that they are far more receptive. I think it would be really cool if there was a state or even national program where people could sign up to volunteer their historical property for documentation. You could even get people from these communities to assist in documenting the structure. By providing the base level data preservationists might have an easier time sorting through the data and using the high end skill and knowledge that they actually possess.
I am really hopeful that these technologies are adopted by more historians, preservationists, archaeologists, and other people because I really think that we might see an explosion of available information. We might have too much, but that is hardly a bad thing in my opinion.
What do you all think? Are you doing anything like this? Are there pitfalls that I have not discussed?