Virtual Environments have commonly been used for the dissemination, education and public awareness of cultural heritage. However, interactive virtual environments have yet to be fully utilised as a tool to enhance the workflow for the archaeologist. When attempting to understand a particular cultural heritage site, a variety of data sources and technologies can be employed, resulting in potentially conflicting hypotheses regarding the development of a site through time.

In this research multiple data sources are utilised including sketches, historic maps, photographs and expert opinion to semi-automatically reconstruct different versions of an environment for a given time period. Drones are also increasingly being used to survey historic sites using photogrammetry, lidar, GPR and magnetometry to collect data  enabling the construction of realistic and accurate virtual 3D models.

For example two images are shown on the top right of this page. The top image presents an image of 1880 Koblenz whereas the bottom image illustrates a semi-automatically generated 3d model. This research has been utilised by the Urban Modelling Group and Virtual Past (a collaboration with the School of History at UEA).

Often in cultural heritage the quest for enhanced visual realism has drawn research away from other important factors, such as interactivity, sound or touch. Previously image-based solutions have been investigated to enable high quality results, but this can detract from the user's immersive experience. Utilising new graphics rendering techniques enables high quality visualisations to be created in real-time. This research aims to permit the user to navigate and explore multiple hypothetical reconstructions of a site throughout time.

UMG have also been a major partner in Magnacarta a HIS/CMP project to bring an 800-year-old document into the 21st century. Magna Carta is known around the world as the cornerstone of British constitutional liberty. This £910k project was to track down lost originals and create an online database of new commentary, images, translations and research findings about the document. The three-year project enabled researchers to sift through more than 300 archives in the UK, France and Ireland, in a bid to trace lost originals. (An original from the 1297 issue of Magna Carta, sold in New York in 2007, realized $21 million.) It is the first complete commentary on the document - and is now available as part of an online resource for members of the public and historians alike. The core team was completed by Prof Andy Day from CMP and the project was primarily funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and culminated in 2015, to coincide with the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.


  1. Brown, P.G, Laycock, S.D. and Day, A.M., Vectorising Building Footprints From Historic Maps, VAST: International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Intelligent Cultural Heritage, pp. 17-24,  2012.

  2. Laycock, S.D., Brown, P.G., Laycock, R.G. and Day, A.M., Aligning archive maps and extracting footprints for analysis of historic urban environments, Computers and Graphics, 35(2), pp. 242-249, 2011.

  3. Laycock, S.D., Laycock, R.G., Drinkwater D.M. and Day A.M., Real-time visualisation of multiple time dependent reconstruction hypotheses for a cultural heritage site, VAST: International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Intelligent Cultural Heritage, Braga, Portugal, December, pp 93-100, 2008.

  4. Laycock, R.G., Drinkwater, D. and Day, A.M., Exploring cultural heritage sites through space and time, ACM Journal of Computing and Cultural Heritage, 1(2), New York, NY, USA, October, 2008

  5. Laycock, R. G. and Laycock, S.D., Haptically aware movies. Touching high-quality computer-generated environments, In 3DVisA Bulletin, Issue 2, March 2007.

  6. Laycock, R.G., Laycock, S.D., and Day, A.M., Haptic Navigation and Exploration of High Quality Pre-rendered Environments, In 7th VAST06, Cyprus, pp. 17-24, 2006.

Research Team

Prof. Andy DayDr. Stephen Laycock, Mr. David Drinkwater