Problem statement

Nowadays, the problem of preservation and reconstruction of lost or modified monuments of historical and cultural heritage is important not only for Russia but for the entire world. Some of them have been completely lost, while others were subjected to alteration and reconstruction during various historical periods.

The problem is also relevant for existing historical objects that might be lost due to the influence of various negative factors ranging from the lack of funding on their conservation and renewal to the changes in political regimes and local military conflicts.

The use of modern information technologies makes it possible to solve the problem of preservation and reconstruction of lost or modified monuments of historical and cultural heritage, as well as to help attracting attention to the monuments of historical and cultural values, and to form their modern image. They can be used not only to capture the current state of historical objects for future generations, but also to present various stages of their development to the descendants.

One way to provide information about the objects of cultural and historical heritage is to create a virtual museum - a specialized Web site designed to display various exhibits: art, historical artifacts, monuments, and others. The information includes not only text, but also images, sound, video and animation. Often, these sites present information resources of existing museums. Users only need any usual WEB-browser to view these sites.

Another trend is the use 3D-technology for virtual reality modeling. Three-dimensional modeling allows reconstructing lost or partially damaged historic sites, unexecuted projects and lost architectural monuments. The term virtual archeology was introduced in 1990. The aim of virtual archeology is to use computer technology to create high-quality images of archaeological sites and to assist archaeological research. Modern information technologies allow reconstructing those objects that were destroyed or damaged as a result of real archaeological excavations.

Technically, creation of a virtual 3D-reconstruction of a historical object can be presented by the following stages.

The initial stage of reconstruction requires detailed investigation in order to collect information about the monument, explore available historical materials and archival documents in museum collections and archives.

Then, 3D-models of historical buildings (structures, buildings, etc.) are constructed using 3D-modeling programs (Google SketchUp, Blender, Maya, Autodesk 3Ds Max) based on the known parameters (dimensions, materials). Graphical editors (GIMP, Adobe Photoshop) are used to work with the objects’ textures.

After that, 3D-models of the landscape are built using the landscape design programs (L3DT, Terragen) based on available topographical information (maps, plans, diagrams, space images).

Then, a single virtual space is created using software systems for three-dimensional multi-user virtual worlds (OpenSimulator, Second Life, Unity3D) on the basis of prepared 3D-models of the objects and the landscape. With the help of a specialized software client (Cool VL Viewer, Singularity) the user controls the movement of an avatar (a virtual character) in a simulated virtual world.

The authors have developed a three-dimensional reconstruction of the XVIIth century fortress of Tambov. Tambov was founded in 1636 at the confluence of Students and Tsna rivers as a military fortress on the southern borders of the Moscow State.

OpenSimulator was used as a platform for creation of a three-dimensional virtual reality. OpenSimulator is an international project, which aims on creating an open technology platform for building of three-dimensional virtual worlds similar to Second Life. OpenSimulator development goes in the direction of innovation - a three-dimensional Web. The OpenSimulator project has an open initial code (BSD license) and is distributed free of charge.