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Virtual Access to Landscapes and Historic Gardens at Linked Locations

Deliverables

Digital Locational Garden Information & Live Expert Commentary 3D information about the gardens, instances of plants, and accessibility has been recorded digitally in a GIS. This GIS data is used to: generate the 3D VRML models of the gardens; locate archived images that contain specific plants in one or more gardens; calculate the locations of a plant to direct the cameras in one or more gardens to point at each instance of the same plant; and enable bespoke searches for specific information such as accessibility. The private section of the website contains the live camera controls, together with project specific files and work under development. Using the live camera controls Staff have been able to video conference between the two gardens, and so share experience online �virtually�, while controlling the remote cameras and discussing the view from the other garden. The Web provides a facility that makes publication of instances that relate directly to particular experience on particular sites possible for the first time. Gardeners are not always articulate. The various recording processes described above need to be complemented by narrative skills in eliciting and explaining the expertise that is being deployed in these historic gardens. The Valhalla project has demonstrated that it is possible to add value to conventional video surveillance systems and to integrate them into a larger spatial information system (or GIS). Video security systems are now commonplace across Europe. There are still some issues about coverage on sites which are diverse and split into discrete spatial cells, but these can be overcome by the sensible use of wireless technology and power from solar cells, as is already in use on some European motorways. The costs of this technology continue to decline. However the costs of realizing and organizing the data about the objects visible in the field of views of the cameras is not so easily reduced. This is the area of expertise demonstrated in this Trial.
The website contains an explanation of the project; together with comparative information about the two gardens. It contains: live video images of both gardens; live video images with synchronized explanatory VRML models, giving access to hyperlinked information about plants visible in the images; a selection of the archived video clips; a search mechanism to compare archived clips from both gardens; discussion and frequently asked questions. The site is based on active server pages. This prototype implementation has shown that it can increase and broaden public access; and serve as a model for the implementation of comparative digital display of related locations and information across Europe, in order to increase understanding of landscape history, design and culture. These goals have been achieved by: publishing comparative on-line and real-time digital video of these two historic gardens of European importance to visitor information systems on-site, on the partner site and on the Web; based upon digitally mapping the gardens in a computer based three-dimensional spatial information system with VRML to enable simultaneous access to non-visual information, e.g. local plant-names keyed to Latin. The results are intended to serve as a model particularly for gardens and parks, but also for other sites of international and comparative importance, which are subject to frequent change with restricted public access, such as new buildings and archaeological sites. The primary objective of the Valhalla Project was to digitally present historic gardens and landscape parks, on-site using web technologies, and on the web, to convey a site overview not usually achievable at ground level and to increase and to broaden public access; and to trial a web based facility for comparative digital display of related locations and information across Europe, in order to facilitate improved public understanding of landscape history, design and culture. To achieve this it proved necessary to improve methods of digital recording and display of Historic Gardens and Landscape Parks; and thus as a result to be able to use digital technology to enhance flexible visitor management so conserving more fragile locations; and so enable visitors including the disabled to plan bespoke routes; thereby improving the manageability, marketability and visitor interpretation of these Historic Sites. The trial website demonstrates this implementation. More information on the VALHALLA project can be found at: http://environment.uwe.ac.uk/valhalla/default.asp