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3d Wall scan in French CavesA team from Wheaton College in Norton, MA led by Professor of Computer Science Mark D. LeBlanc recently returned from France with a collection of hi-tech image and data collection of the cave carvings and messages left by American soldiers in World War I. 

Project demonstrates 3D collection of cave messages in France left by American soldiers in WWI

By Mark D. LeBlanc, Ph.D.
Professor of Computer Science at Wheaton College in Norton, MA
Special to the United States World War One Centennial Commission web site

A team from Wheaton College in Norton, MA recently returned from two days in the caves at Braye-en-Laonnois, France (August 4-5, 2019) capturing 3D data of the cave etchings left there by American soldiers in World War I.

Working for an 11-hour and then 8-hour day under the guidance of Gilles Chauwin, our team returned with gigabytes of data (3D Lidar laser scans, 360 pano-images, and photogrammetry images) to demonstrate the concept by example that the messages left 100 years ago by the men in the American Army’s 26th Division, as well as French and German soldiers, can be preserved, reproduced, and disseminated.

The work of our project, involving honor, diplomacy, and a pursuit to provide new and exciting ways to teach history so the next generations will not forget, is based on 12 years of research at National Archives. Team members (artist Kelly Goff and videographer Keith Heyward) have demonstrated the potential to:

  • Make 3D virtual experiences (bringing these messages to those in the US since most will never get the chance to actually visit);
  • Create milled pieces of individual etchings;
  • Create full-wall installations for museums; and
  • "Starter Kits" for teachers to use the data for teaching history in new ways.

A peek at some early (low-resolution) work by the team is available here.

Our World War I research efforts, and my book From Maine to France and Somehow Back Again: World War I Experiences of John M. Longley and the 26th Yankee Division, were highlighted recently by the Wheaton College Blog in the post below.

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