An Online Collaboration Approach for Cultural Heritage Practice

Takehiko NAGAKURA | Rachelle VILLALON | Wenzhe PENG | Diego Cornejo BARRA
(Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)

Keywords: Digital Heritage, Architecture, Collaboration Tool, Data Base, Photogrammetric Modeling

This paper introduces an online collaboration platform as means to facilitate a new type of cultural heritage practice. Over the past decade, capturing a 3D form and its texture has become easily attainable by anyone with an inexpensive device such as a smart phone. This has been made possible by photogrammetric modeling software, and its consumer use now offers an opportunity for heritage documentation projects. These projects can collect a large amount of 3D captured data sampled on site through the help of untrained novices, rather than skilled professionals utilizing special scanning or measurement equipment. However, unorganized 3D captures by novices are just fragments representing parts of the site in varied qualities from different times. Taking advantage of them requires placing them properly in the spatial context of the site and having them related to each other.
Design Heritage is an online platform for posting, assembling and sharing 3D captures, and is under development at MIT. Similar to 3D GIS software, it is a database and 3D visualization tool, with a toolset tailored to help individual participants share a communal project and to integrate various data collected by professionals and novices alike. This paper discusses the design requirements for this system and deployment to various community scenarios such as a private class, public workshop, or community event with open participation. Topics include handling of massive and heterogeneous captures, a permission and moderation scheme for sharing and editing, communication among participants, automation of annotations, data sorting and querying, and delivery with multiple levels of detail.
Examples are illustrated by recent cultural heritage practices in Singapore and Machu Picchu. They demonstrate use cases of this collaborative platform and the possibilities for forming a unique community of participatory practice around an effort to digitally preserve an important heritage site.

Relevance conference:
This paper illustrates a strategy to integrate massive and heterogeneous 3D captures collected by experts of different fields and novices alike through the use of an online platform.

Relevance session:
A communal approach to cultural heritage practice is discussed, and location cases demonstrate use of an online platform with database and visualization tools for collaborating participants.

An online platform for posting, assembling and sharing 3D captures is introduced with its toolset tailored to facilitate collaboration of individuals in a cultural heritage project.


  1. Agarwal S., Furukawa Y., Snavely N., Simon I., Curless B., Seitz S. and Szeliski S. “Building Rome in a Day”, Communications of the ACM, Vol. 54, No. 10, Pages 105-112, October 2011.
  2. Nagakura T., Tsai D., Choi J. “Capturing History Bit by Bit – Architectural Database of Photogrammetric Model and Panoramic Video”, eCAADe, September, 2015