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Creating a 3D Model of the New Room Floor

New Room floor photogrammetry

A major task of the Mansion Revitalization Project involves repairing sections of the Mansion’s framing, necessitating the temporary removal of the original 18th-century floorboards in the Mansion’s New Room.

But before the first floorboard was lifted, the Preservation team undertook the critical task of documenting the floor's condition using a technique known as photogrammetry.

What is Photogrammetry?

Photogrammetry is the science of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and environments through the process of recording, measuring, and interpreting photographic images.

By using multiple overlapping photos from different angles, modern software can triangulate the images to create a detailed, accurate 3D model. This method has revolutionized the way historic sites and artifacts are documented and preserved.

Photogrammetry in Action at Mount Vernon

George Brown, Mount Vernon’s visual asset specialist, began by collecting over 160 digital photographs of the New Room’s floor. This required Brown to photograph the floorboards from various angles at three different elevations, ensuring that every inch was covered. The highest elevation required hoisting the camera on a pole.

These images were then processed through a sophisticated computer program that aligned them together, creating a highly detailed 3D model. This model is not only a visual record but also an essential tool for the Preservation team while preparing for the removal process and while reinstalling the floorboards.

The Benefits of Photogrammetry

Photogrammetry offers several advantages in the context of historical preservation:

Accurate: The 3D models created through photogrammetry are incredibly precise and can include as much detail as the quality, resolution, and number of its images allows.

Non-Invasive: This technique is non-destructive, meaning it doesn't harm the original materials or structures.

Measurable: Photogrammetry is inherently measurable and is used to obtain precise and accurate measurements from photographs, making it a valuable tool in many fields.

Documentation: The models serve as permanent records, invaluable for future research and reference.

Restoration Aid: They provide a reliable guide for the Preservation team to reassemble elements accurately after repairs.

Photographic documentation of the New Room’s floors—both as a 3D model and as a 2D print-out (shown above)—proved invaluable to the Preservation team while preparing for the floorboard removal process. (MVLA)

A Tool for the Future

Beyond the New Room, Mount Vernon employs photogrammetry to document various aspects of the Mansion Revitalization Project—from the excavation of original Washington drains in the cellar to the discovery of intact 18th-century bottles containing fruit. By integrating photogrammetry into its preservation efforts, Mount Vernon’s staff ensures that these historical elements are preserved with precision for future generations to study and appreciate.

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