Historic sites at California’s most famous prison, in the jungles of Belize and closer-to-home in the town of Belton, Texas are three of the most recent documentation projects undertaken by Texas A&M’s Center for Heritage Conservation.
Earlier this month, Robert Warden, CHC director, took preservation technology students to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, to create 2- and 3-D models of the former federal prison’s recreation yard using sophisticated scanning equipment including the total station, a tool that employs a laser distance meter to scan and record imaging data that yields accurate, highly detailed structural models when entered into computer-aided design software.
The Alcatraz imaging project is part of an ongoing collaboration with Chico State University and the National Park Service, which operates the island as a tourist attraction and a sanctuary for seabirds.
Warden documented other parts of the prison during a previous visit to the island.
In another CHC project, Warden and Michelle Bernhardt, a civil engineering Ph.D. student pursuing a Certificate in Historic Preservation, traveled to northwestern Belize for two weeks in July 2012 to document Blue Creek, site of an ancient Maya site.
It was Warden’s second trip to Blue Creek, where the Maya Research Program has been conducting archaeological excavations since 1992.
“We do our work where burial grounds are uncovered,” said Warden. “Before artifacts and bones are extracted, we go in and create 3-D models of the burial site, which we share with archaeologists working on the project.”
In another CHC initiative completed last spring, Warden led the documentation of the oldest standing building in Belton, Texas, a church built in 1874 with walls are visibly leaning and in danger of collapse.
Warden told the Belton Journal his students documented the church with the CHC’s high-tech equipment and presented their work to city officials to help them create a plan for restoring the building.