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Horbiński, T.; Smaczyński, M. Visualization of Cultural Heritage Objects. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 21 June 2024).
Horbiński T, Smaczyński M. Visualization of Cultural Heritage Objects. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2024.
Horbiński, Tymoteusz, Maciej Smaczyński. "Visualization of Cultural Heritage Objects" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 21, 2024).
Horbiński, T., & Smaczyński, M. (2023, July 17). Visualization of Cultural Heritage Objects. In Encyclopedia.
Horbiński, Tymoteusz and Maciej Smaczyński. "Visualization of Cultural Heritage Objects." Encyclopedia. Web. 17 July, 2023.
Visualization of Cultural Heritage Objects

Cultural heritage includes everything we have inherited from previous generations. It is a valuable asset that links the past to the present. For many countries, it is both part of the national identity and an important economic engine. However, cultural heritage is constantly threatened by natural and anthropogenic factors. Therefore, the documentation of cultural heritage is very important. Registering all elements of cultural heritage has many advantages when it comes to understanding its intrinsic value, assessing its significance, and preserving and managing it.

cultural heritage visualization 3D model archaeological remains HBIM

1. Introduction

The documentation of architectural and archaeological objects and monuments is an activity for which information must be obtained from various sources [1]. One of these is direct field measurements using geodetic techniques. The use of geodetic measurements in archaeological research to produce accurate maps or topographic and architectural plans of research sites has been used for a long time, and geodetic measurements are now a standard procedure in archaeological work. With the development of measurement technology, the methodology of archaeological inventory and the measurement techniques used have also changed. In the past, the basic measuring instruments used at archaeological sites were a tape measure and a leveling instrument [2]. One of the most advanced optical instruments of the past, used since antiquity, i.e., since the 16th century, was the theodolite [2]. The theodolite, as a measuring instrument stabilized with a tripod, was used to measure horizontal and vertical angles to determine the mutual position of points on an archaeological site. In the second half of the 20th century, it was replaced by an electronic total station (Total Station Theodolite (TST)), which, in comparison to the theodolite, was additionally equipped with a rangefinder and enabled the recording of measurement data in the memory of the instrument [3]. An additional simplification in carrying out measurements was the development of measurement in the reflectorless system, which made it possible to carry out measurements without the use of a geodetic prism [4]. With the development of computer software, it became possible to transfer the measurement results into special software and to create a digital map of the archaeological site. Electronic total stations are most commonly used by archaeologists to measure the location of individual artifacts and to calculate the height of individual objects.
Electronic total stations, commonly used in archaeological work, are increasingly being replaced by the latest geodetic instruments, which allow detailed 3D modeling in a short time and make the models created available via digital products [5]. Currently, this is possible thanks to the use of LiDAR technology [6][7] and photogrammetry [8][9][10][11][12][13][14]. Airborne laser scanning (ALS—Airborne Laser Scanning) or LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) [15] has proven to be a real breakthrough in archaeological research. This technology has supplemented aerial photography as the primary data source for topographic mapping. In addition, airborne laser scanning allows for the acquisition of data with a ground sampling distance of <1 m, which is then used to generate DEM and DTM with high resolution that can be successfully used to investigate the relationships between archaeological remains and their surroundings [2]. This approach, known as landscape archaeology, is deservedly gaining popularity among scientists. Laser scanning technology can be used to create detailed point clouds. Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS), in particular, provides accurate coverage of the environment. However, its range is much shorter compared to airborne scanning (ALS), so it can be used to record objects in smaller areas, i.e., within archaeological research sites. Laser scanners are invaluable for obtaining precise spatial data in the field of recording cultural heritage objects. They are particularly important from an architectural point of view and are used for inventories of architectural, technical, and industrial objects. Precise data from laser scanning can be the basis for documenting a specific object, which is very important for the proper maintenance, management, and repair of culturally valuable structures [16][17].
Another source of data that enables the creation of 3D models is photogrammetric studies based on images taken from low altitudes by an unmanned aerial platform. Low-level aerial photogrammetry, which allows the creation of high-quality 3D models thanks to digital image processing, allows you to collect photographs that, in addition to being a source for creating a 3D model, are also photographic documentation of cultural heritage objects [18][19].
Data acquisition methods allow the development of advanced visualizations, such as 3D models, which are very difficult to create using traditional cartographic methods of field mapping and simple measurements [20]. The methods of laser and photogrammetric 3D data acquisition are non-invasive, prevent damage to archaeological objects and enable digital documentation and visualization of geometry [21].
One of the new ways of representing data on historical and cultural heritage objects is Historic Building Information Modeling (HBIM) [22]. The literature on architectural history points to problems related to the lack of standardization of processes related to the documentation of cultural heritage objects, the dispersion of information, and the use of outdated tools [23]. Many specialists from different fields, such as archaeology, architecture, civil engineering, and geodesy, are working on the development of cultural heritage documentation [24]. Usually, specialists with different backgrounds work separately rather than in teams, resulting in different and often duplicated work that produces scattered, different types and formats of data on cultural heritage objects [25][26][27]. Considering the above problems, the literature on this topic points to the need to develop and expand new methods for managing cultural heritage data [28][29]. In addition to the problems associated with the lack of a developed methodology in the inventory of cultural heritage objects, more and more new measurement data is being generated. The continuous development of modern measurement methods, such as laser scanning or low-altitude photogrammetry, means that researchers are able to generate more and more measurement data every day in an ever shorter time. From the issues outlined in the introduction, there is a need to develop a research process and determine the tools and their usefulness for the acquisition, processing, management, and visualization of cultural heritage objects. Such research will help to facilitate the archiving of the current state of individual cultural heritage objects, record their condition, and, if necessary, to enable their reconstruction. In addition, the development of a coherent and unified research methodology related to the collection, management, and visualization of data on cultural heritage objects has a direct impact and importance on the decision-making process related to their management and immediate environment.

2. Techniques for Obtaining Data on Cultural Property

Various studies related to cultural heritage registration have looked at the different uses and benefits of documentation. For example, 3D documentation technology has been used to record the tangible features of urban morphology and architectural typology. Scans were used to capture and document the physical environment of the abandoned village of Tinbak in Qatar. The research conducted by Ferwati et al. [30] was enriched by documenting oral testimonies (residents of the area) and photographic records.
In the article by Sanchez–Calvillo et al. [31], cultural heritage in the form of vernacular architecture in the state of Michoacan (Mexico) was documented using audiovisual methods and documentary film. The research was based on the fieldwork that contributed to the film but also on the documentation and analysis of this endangered cultural heritage. The main product, however, was a documentary film in which a society that still lives and maintains vernacular architecture also played a major role.
An interactive thematic map was used by Lorek and Horbiński [32] to visualize and document the changes at the European A1/A4. By analyzing archival cartographic sources, the researchers were able to present individual spatial changes to both the roads and the interchange itself. Based on six archival maps, they presented almost 200 years of history of this important traffic junction.
High-resolution measurement data quickly found application in research on the discovery of archaeological remains and in cultural heritage work [33][34][35]. The research carried out has shown that in areas where there were walls and ditches in the past, which were once described in detail and of which no traces remain today, these could be made visible as small changes in the height of the terrain using LiDAR data [36]. In addition, it should be emphasized that the LiDAR sensor allows the registration of multiple signals of the reflected laser pulse, which makes it possible to record the land surface under the tree canopies [37][38][39]. This makes LiDAR a valuable source of 3D information for the discovery of archaeological remains in forested areas, where other exploration methods largely fail.
Due to the destruction of culturally valuable objects, more and more work has been devoted to the inventory and presentation of cultural heritage objects in recent years. Research on the reconstruction and presentation of cultural heritage objects in virtual reality has been presented by Lütjens et al. [40], Walmsley and Kersten [41], and Büyüksalih et al. [42], among others. In such work, it is very important to use different available data, e.g., analog historical documentation and digital spatial data. An example of such an approach is the research to create an immersive virtual reality for the residence of the first rulers of the Piast dynasty on a spar at Lake Lednica (Ostrów Lednicki) in Poland [43]. The geovisualization in the form of a virtual reality walk in a cultural heritage site was evaluated by a group of experts in the field of the Middle Ages and by a group of role-players.
An example of the use of Historic Building Information Modelling (HBIM) technology is the work of Carvajal-Ramírez et al. [44], who undertook a survey of the ruins of Cortijo del Fraile in Spain. The research used photogrammetric data from low-level aerial vehicles (UAV) for a detailed inventory of the structure. The researchers then developed models in the software CAD and carried out texturing.
In summary, there are many techniques for obtaining data on cultural property. Each of these techniques makes it possible to obtain different spatial data of a given object, which in turn determines the possibility of developing different visualizations and forms of representation of data and the object.


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