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University of Maryland researchers are reviving historical sites through augmented reality

University of Maryland researchers bring Juneteenth history alive
University of Maryland researchers bring Juneteenth history alive 02:12

BALTIMORE -- Some of the state's historical sites are in the process of being brought to life, with the help of University of Maryland researchers.

Through augmented reality, people can now see the historic Oakley Cabin as it was. The cabin became a home to freed African American families after Maryland's emancipation in 1864.

To celebrate Juneteenth, WJZ took a trip to the cabin to see how it all works.

The Oakley Cabin initially was built to house slaves, but after the state's emancipation, became one of the first homes for freed African Americans.

It stands as a reminder of what life was like at that time.

"Seeing a wood cabin like this is not that special, for all practical purposes. But, what makes it important, is the history of the place and the experiences of the people that lived here," said Stefan Woehlke, post-doctoral associate of historical preservation at UMD.

Woehlke is largely part of the effort to help people see what the cabin was really like: setting up eight QR codes all around the cabin.

By scanning them, people can go inside the cabin, or see how things would've been set up outside, with the help of 3D models in augmented reality.

Woehlke used terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry to scan everything -- the cabin itself, objects inside, and the surrounding area.

There's also audio embedded, available in seven different languages.

Rachel Wilkerson, a UMD graduage student studying historic preservsation, helped in the effort.

She said this makes the cabin's history more accessible.

"The public can just come here and scan a QR code, get into the story and learn about it without having to wait," Wilkerson said. "Something liek this is a great way to reach the public and get people into history."

Woehlke agrees, especially since tours at the site are on a limited schedule. Free tours with historical interpreters are available on the second and fourth Saturdays from April to October, running from noon to 4 p.m.

"60 hours an entire year is not enough to really share the history of Oakley Cabin," Woehlke said.

With the work for Oakley Cabin done, the goal is to do with this more historical places.

"We really wanted to be able to use Oakley Cabin as sort of a testing ground to build all the foundations that need to expand and bring these technologies to other sites in the county," Woehlke said. "To share a broad range of different stories from all the different people who have lived in Montgomery County over centuries."

Aside from Montgomery County, UMD is also working with Prince George's County to bring augmented reality to historical sites.

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