Jonas BRUSCHKE | Ferdinand MAIWALD | Florian NIEBLING | Sander MÜNSTER
(Universität Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany)

Keywords: image repositories, 4D browser, 3D web, architecture

A substantial number of institutions archive historical images of architecture in urban areas and make them available to scholars and the general public through online platforms. Users can explore these usually huge repositories by faceted browsing or keyword-based searching. Metadata that enable these kinds of investigations however are often incomplete, imprecise, or even wrong. Thus, retrieving images of interest can be a cumbersome task for users as art and architectural historians trying to answer their research questions.
Many of these images, often containing historic buildings and landscapes, can be oriented spatially using automatic methods such as structure from motion (SfM). Providing spatially and temporally oriented images of urban architecture, in combination with advanced searching and exploration techniques, offers new potentials in supporting historians in their research. We are developing a 3D web environment usable to historians enabling them to search and access historic photographic images in a spatial context. Where related projects make use of 2D maps, showing only a planar view of the current urban situation, we create interactive views of 4D city models, i.e. 3D spatial models that are changing over time, to provide a better understanding of the urban building situation regarding the photographer’s position and surroundings. A major feature of the application is to make both, 3D reconstructed models and photogrammetric digitized models from historical photographs corresponding. At the same time, this mixed methods approach is used for validation of the 3D reconstructions. Moreover, we examined both, users and related research practices and strategies by surveys and observations to identify most relevant scenarios to support.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
Our research creates new ways for historians to access digitized information available through online media repositories to pursue their research questions.

We combine spatially oriented photographs of historic buildings with 4D city models to provide context of the urban situation at the time the photograph was taken.


  1. Bruschke et al. 2017. Towards browsing repositories of spatially oriented historic photographic images in 3D web environments. In Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on 3D Web Technology (Web3D ’17).
  2. Niebling et al. 2017. Zugänglichkeit und dauerhafte Nutzbarkeit historischer Bildrepositorien für Forschung und Vermittlung. In Digital Humanities im deutschsprachigen Raum (DHd).