November 28th: Abandoning Photogrammetry and Choosing to Map London’s Historic Plaques

If you open this link in a new window and scroll down, you can see screenshots of my photogrammetry test: https://imgur.com/a/fFAaR3w

When I first started thinking about the final project for this course, photogrammetry was something that popped up right away. I thought about the possibilities for museums to not only share pictures of their artifacts, but full models. This could be a huge help for people who are far away, or otherwise unable to visit the museum. I was also inspired by some of my colleagues, who tried photogrammetry apps on their smartphones. Rather than repeat exactly what they did, I chose to use a computer program, Autodesk, and my own digital camera. Autodesk is a program that takes in all of the pictures you take of an object, and turns it into a 3D model. While it usually requires payment, they allow students to use it for free. 

I decided to test it out before committing, and using a proper studio for everything. I set up my brown, wooden table in the middle of my dining room, placed my open wallet on the table (I was curious as to whether the program would be able to get some of the edges of my cards), and got to work taking pictures. While I was able to move around my table easily, I found trying to keep the camera in the same position, while moving it slightly, was very awkward. I definitely changed positions (and thus angles, meaning I am at least partially to blame for the imperfect result) while walking around. In hindsight, I should have set up a circular perimeter around the edge of the table, to give myself a rough sense of where I should be taking pictures from. I also should have been in a wheely chair instead of standing. 

Once I finished taking around 20 photos, making it once around my wallet, I plugged my camera into my computer and uploaded them to Autodesk. Like with the actual taking of photos, this process took longer than I thought, although I shouldn’t be surprised given what the program has to do. The result, as you can see above, was not perfect; I found it surprisingly good, especially considering how I changed angles and didn’t plan out the taking of pictures extremely well. 

However, the imperfect model was not the last of my problems. Autodesk allows for you to edit the model after the fact, filling in holes and cutting away what your object was on. Whenever I tried filling in the gaps in my wallet, the hole and much of the inside of the wallet (where the cards are) was covered up by a weird browny-black colour that neither matched my table nor my wallet. The likely problem here was using a black object with poor lighting, but as I said before, this was a test. I also had an issue with exporting the model, which I don’t believe was my fault (for once). I was able to save my model open it back up in their program for viewing 3D models, Autodesk ReCap Photos (which came with Autodesk, but I believe you can get it separately if you need a program to view models). However, when I tried exporting the file to share, it got rid of all the colours and textures in my model, leaving me with a mess of polygons. I was unable to figure out a way to properly export the model how I saw it. 

Overall, using Autodesk worked out much better than expected. It really was amazing to see the end result so close to what it should have been, given my inexperience taking photos for this sort of thing. I’m sure if I set myself up with better lighting conditions and took my time more in preparing to take the pictures, I could have ended up with a much better model. However, I decided not to continue with this for my final project. 

Instead of photogrammetry, I am using ArcGIS to map out London’s heritage plaques. I was inspired by a number of readings for our other class, especially “What Counts as History in Toronto? Digitally Exploring Toronto’s Heritage Plaques” by Ian Milligan (found here: http://activehistory.ca/2012/08/what-counts-as-history-in-toronto-digitally-exploring-torontos-heritage-plaques/). I was also inspired by the London City Map program, in part because it didn’t have the city’s plaques on it. In fact, I couldn’t find one website with all of London’s plaques on them. I had to browse a few websites, and I’m still not positive I got them all. 

A close-up of London, showing some of the plaques in red (federal) and blue (provincial)

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, as it’s still a work-in-progress. Perhaps once it’s finished, I will add another post with more information. Above, you can see the map I have made. The red squares are the federal plaques, and the blue squares are the provincial plaques. I chose to separate them so that I could choose to analyze them separately and together, to see if there are any stark differences between the two. In the image below, I clicked on point, so that you can see the types of information (category, heritage district, etc.) I will be looking at with my analysis. The map also shows London’s heritage districts, as I was curious to see whether there was any sort of correlation between the plaques and the heritage districts. The main correlation is that many of the plaques, both federal and provincial, are clustered downtown. This is likely because the plaques were meant to be public, seen by all, and perhaps even political, as Paul Litt suggests in “Pliant Clio and Immutable Texts: The Historiography of a Historical Marking Program.” 

A zoomed-out look that shows all of the plaques within London

While I haven’t gotten into analyzing the language of the plaques much yet, I do hope to look into the kinds of words that come up more often in London’s plaques, and compare them to what Ian Milligan found with Toronto’s plaques. In this way, I quickly created a Wordle by copying and pasting the text of the provincial plaques, seen above. The two most common words, “London” and “Canada” show that these plaques could invoke a sense of pride in people for their country and their city. It’s interesting to see that “Western” and “University” are some of the next largest words. Then there are some other common words similar to Milligan’s findings, such as “oldest” and “first.” As I said, though, I haven’t gotten into my analysis much, and this is just to show my work-in-progress.

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