InSITE--The Virtual Historic Savannah Project - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/16/03

InSITE--The Virtual Historic Savannah Project

Since Savannah was founded in 1733, thousands of buildings have come and gone. Some are gone forever, but one local group is working hard to keep that history alive. It's called the Virtual Historic Savannah Project, and it lets you look through downtown's rich history, online.

"The Virtual Historic Savannah Project is kind of a combination encyclopedia and guide book, and ultimately a documentation of the history of the evolution of Savannah," explained Dr. Robin Williams, who heads up the project.

Williams chairs the architectural history department at SCAD and says today's students are drawn to high-tech educational resources. "Just the lure of it, the way computer technology can capture their attention, it got me thinking, 'Well, how can I marry architectural history to computer technology?'"

He teamed up with interactive technology professor Greg Johnson to put Savannah, past and present, online. "The main challenge is finding a technology that allows you to interact in 3-D and still access information," noted Prof. Johnson. But he found technology that lets you cruise through Savannah's streets, and through time back to the city's founding.

Though it's a work in progress, the project will ultimately encompass all of today's buildings and thousands that no longer exist. Dr. Williams told us, "For every building that stands in downtown Savannah, there have been at least two buildings that have been lost."

The project is freely available to anybody, and its creators hope it will inspire other virtual historic projects. "Once we finish this, there's no reason another city or place or institute or school couldn't do something very similar," said Johnson.

And it's not just the buildings the project is documenting. They're also researching the residents and businesses that have occupied them over the years.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

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