Technology Opens Up John Muir’s Birthplace to the World

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Photographing John Muir’s birthplace – SNH

The birthplace of the Scottish nature conservationist John Muir is to be opened up to people across the world, thanks to a ground-breaking new digital scanning project.

An expert team digitally scanned Muir’s childhood home in Dunbar, where he was born and lived his early years, before establishing himself as a visionary champion of nature.

“John Muir was always experiencing and exploring nature. He’s renowned in both the US and Scotland, and indeed in many other parts of the world,” Richard Davison, SNH’s People and Landscapes programme manager, said. “Through this international project using the most sophisticated digital technology, we would like people to be inspired by John Muir to connect with nature and landscapes by experiencing it, exploring it and helping to look after it.”

The project is being led jointly by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Historic Scotland, in conjunction with the John Muir Birthplace Trust. It forms part of a transatlantic project featuring Muir’s home in California and links to the 2013 Year of Natural Scotland, the 2014 Year of Homecoming and the centenary of John Muir’s death.

Dr Lyn Wilson, Digital Survey Manager at Historic Scotland, said using the very latest in modern technology, “we can bring our heritage to life. We are able to create an exceptionally accurate digital model of the site to conserve it for the benefit of future generations to come.”

The scanning will help create detailed digital models, with photographs and a virtual 3D fly-through tour of Muir’s homes in Scotland and the U.S. This information will be used to develop mobile and PC apps that will connect the Scottish and American stories of John Muir, as well as other long-term projects.

Will Collin, a member of the John Muir Birthplace Trust, is very enthusiastic about the project’s potential impact.

“John Muir’s love of nature was awakened here in Dunbar and, until the end of his life, he remained ‘a Scot to the backbone’. This exciting project will make his boyhood home accessible across the whole world,” Collin said. “We believe it will let folk see what first inspired the lad from Dunbar and helped make the adult Muir nature’s foremost, and most eloquent, advocate.”

SNH will also use the digital archive to strengthen links with John Muir organisations in the U.S., add to the interpretation of his birthplace and explore new ways of reaching wider audiences.

The cutting edge laser technology surveys sites in 3D and provides a lasting, digital record. The work is being carried out by heritage survey specialists from Historic Scotland and experts in 3D visualisation from CyArk, the international non-profit organisation.

“I am thrilled that the birthplace of John Muir, the father of conservation and boy from Dunbar, has been scanned as part of this project,” Cllr Tim Day, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing for East Lothian Council, said. “I am looking forward to seeing the results in the John Muir Birthplace Museum next year.”

They will use the same techniques that have already created a digital archive for World Heritage sites such as Skara Brae on Orkney and the Antonine Wall and world famous landmarks such as Mt Rushmore and the Sydney Opera House.


Photographing John Muir’s birthplace – SNH

Scottish Natural Heritage is the government’s adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. For more information, visit this Website.

The Year of Natural Scotland 2013 is a celebration of Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty. It’s a partnership between the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, EventScotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and a range of public and private sector organisations. For information on events and activities throughout the year, visit this Website.

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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