Cutting-edge technology for Olde Towne

  • Accurate view: Brent Fortenberry, a Texas A&M University archaeologist, has been using laser technology to capture details in the town of St George’s oldest buildings (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

High-tech laser scanning is being used to map the historic town of St George in a landmark research project.

Brent Fortenberry, an archaeology expert from Texas A&M University, has deployed the technology to create an accurate three-dimensional record of buildings in the Olde Towne in a joint programme with the Bermuda National Trust.

Dr Fortenberry said it was the first time the technology had been used in “the Greater Caribbean area”.

The information will be used to track changes in buildings in the Unesco World Heritage Site and help with future repairs and conservation work.

Dr Fortenberry explained: “No one’s really deployed this technology around the Caribbean, Bermuda, or the Carolinas, so this is the perfect place to kick this off.”

The scanner uses a spinning mirror to shine millions of low-powered laser beams across an area. The lasers measure the distance between the scanner and an object and is used to create a three-dimensional map of its surroundings.

Dr Fortenberry, who has visited the island several times for archaeological and conservation work, said the information was “invaluable”, and explained that the models can show how the town has evolved over the years.

He added: “When you scan a building it’s a snapshot of that moment, so you can monitor buildings by scanning them year by year to create a changing archive of the building.

“What’s more, we can scan a building and give the information to managers, whether it be for repairs, conservation assessments, and the like.”

Dr Fortenberry added that his 12 strong team of Texas A&M students were also carrying out “building investigations” to see how their use and structure had changed.

He said that the group had already scanned the Bridge House and State House, which date back to the 17th century.

“Right now, this is cutting edge, but in five years everyone’s going to have to know how to use a laser scanner for their work,” Dr Fortenberry added.

Hayley Field, 24, one of the team of graduate students, said that the work was a good way to put her academic knowledge to practical use.

She added: “I feel that this is kind of adding to our skill set, it’s taking what we’ve been taught in class and applying it to physical buildings.”

Ms Field said that she signed up for the project to help earn a Certificate in Historic Preservation in Architecture.

Dr Fortenberry said he will discuss the St George’s project and other work involving paint restoration for old Bermudian houses in a lecture for the Bermuda National Trust at its Waterville headquarters in Paget tonight.

William Zuill, executive director at the Trust, said: “We are very pleased to be again hosting Dr Fortenberry and his team.

“The work they are doing builds on the foundations of research carried out by the Bermuda National Trust and others over the last 30 years. Dr Fortenberry’s ability to merge rigorous academic standards with the latest technological tools is especially important.”