CSU Hayward -- November 14, 2003
Exhibition Includes Machu Picchu Virtual Tour Created by Cal State Hayward
A virtual tour of the ancient Peruvian site of Machu Picchu will make
an encore appearance in spring 2004 at the C. E. Smith Museum of Anthropology
at California State University, Hayward, according to museum director
The interactive virtual tour, created by CSUH faculty, staff and graduate
students, was a key element in “In the Shadow of Machu Picchu:
Andean Life, Past and Present,” an exhibition at the Hayward campus
museum from Feb. 21 to June 14, 2003.
This summer more than 56,000 visitors also had access to the Machu Picchu
virtual tour, which is part of “Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery
of the Incas,” a traveling exhibition produced by the Peabody
Museum of Natural History at Yale University.
“Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas” features the history
of Machu Picchu, 15th Century Inca artifacts from the Yale collection,
and the virtual tour. The exhibition began its national tour at the
Museum of Natural History of Los Angeles County in June, is in Pittsburgh
this fall, and will be featured in Denver, Houston and Chicago in 2004.
Miller first learned about Yale’s plans to develop the Machu Picchu
traveling exhibition in 1994, when he was a visiting professor at the
university, teaching archaeology and conducting research on animal bones
found in Machu Picchu tombs.
He approached a Yale colleague Richard Burger, director of the Peabody
Museum and a former CSUH lecturer, and suggested the exhibition include
a computerized component that would allow museum visitors “to
explore and discover the natural, maze-like structure of the site”
using panoramic virtual reality photography.
He proposed augmenting the static displays with computer stations that
would provide multiple, navigable, 360-degree views of the pre-Columbian
His concept was accepted, and Miller was asked to proceed with the project.
Museum visitors, at both the Cal State Hayward and the Peabody exhibits,
use a computer mouse to select a site on a map of Machu Picchu. When
a panoramic image of that location appears on the screen, viewers can
control the image to look skyward, at the ground, or in a full rotation
around the original point. They also can navigate from one point on
the site map to the next.
Miller said next year’s exhibition will feature modifications
to the original Cal State Hayward version, including more “scholar
pop-ups,” offering information and insights, and additional “animal
insights cartoons,” another popular feature in the original display.
No date has been set for the opening of the exhibition.
With the updated version Cal State Hayward museum visitors again will
have “the chance to take a virtual tour of one of the world’s
most mysterious and majestic sites,” Miller said.
Miller brought his vision and scholarly insights to the project and
recruited others to assist him with other elements, including the very
sophisticated technical applications needed to complete the virtual
For this extensive and technically challenging project, Miller recruited
Terry Smith, multi-media support coordinator at Cal State Hayward, who
made two trips to Machu Picchu to help take the needed digital photographs
for the 360-degree images.
The project team also included Bill Hollowell and Michael Bortner, Cal
State Hayward graduate students at the time; CSUH alumni Nancy Summerlin
and Erik Collier; and Yale archaeology graduates Nick Kouchoukos, Regan
Huff and Ana Maria Pavez, who was from Chile. Other Cal State Hayward
staff members who also contributed significantly to the project were
Glenn Brewster, Nastaran Ouliaei, John McCue and Marcho Machado, staff
members of the CSUH Media and Technology Services Department. Brewster,
also graduate student in educational technology, was the technician
who produced the Hiram Bingham black and white photo presentation for
the Cal State Hayward exhibition.
The Inca country palace of Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian cloud
forest, is considered one of the most spectacular archaeological sites
in the world.
When local farmers showed members of the 1911 Yale Peruvian Expedition
the site, it had survived in a near pristine state since its Inca residents
abandoned it in the early 16th century.
That first expedition was led by Yale Professor Hiram Bingham, who later
became governor of Connecticut. During his exploration, he excavated
hundreds of objects that told the story of everyday life at Machu Picchu.
Through an agreement with the Peruvian government, these materials became
part of the Peabody Museum’s collections.
To complete the Cal State Hayward part of the project, Miller traveled
to Peru three times and Smith went twice. They were permitted access
to many restricted sites so they could take 360-degree, digital photographs
throughout the city’s terraced mountainside, granite walls and
steps, buildings, and caves.
On one of their final trips to Machu Picchu, Miller and his team took
more than 250 panoramic images, using two Olympus panoramic digital
cameras with wide-angle lenses and special virtual reality equipment.
During a previous trip to the city in 1996, Miller shot 40 panoramas
using traditional film photography.
“Shooting digitally allowed us to download the images a couple
of times a day to the two laptops we had with us, review the images,
and reshoot where needed,” Miller said. “We set up a kind
of field laboratory in the Machu Picchu Hotel bar. It was a great way
to do archaeology!”
After returning to Cal State Hayward from Peru, Miller and Smith worked
in the university’s media laboratory, electronically “stitching
together” more than 5,000 images to create the panoramas. They
also added virtual reality images of some 100 artifacts they photographed
at the Peabody Museum in 1997 and the ambient sounds they recorded at
Machu Picchu in 1999 and 2000. The recordings included the sounds of
the flow of water through the 16 ceremonial fountains, the roar of the
Urubamba River 2,000 feet below the city ruins, the Quechua (Inca) language
being spoken, and footsteps on the 3,000 steps lining the five-square-mile
Yale and Cal State Hayward collaborated on the digital project, with
Hayward providing the multimedia expertise, Miller said.
“It was an honor to teach at Yale, but it has been equally thrilling
to have the opportunity to share with them the technological strength
that Cal State Hayward, with its Media and Technology lab and multimedia
master’s program, is uniquely positioned to provide,” he
Another facet of Miller’s digital work attracted notice at Yale.
During his second visiting professorship in 1997, he electronically
scanned nearly 1,000 black and white photographs of Machu Picchu that
Bingham took in 1911, 1912 and 1915.
“Bingham was quite a good photographer for that era,” Miller
said, “and he often took multiple shots from a single point allowing
him to physically paste together panoramas.”
By using the Apple Computer’s Quicktime Virtual Reality technology
to reprocess Bingham’s original photographs, Miller created a
“virtual time machine,” giving Bingham’s static photos
in a dynamic, navigable form, and allowing viewers to focus in on small
details and to enlarge them for closer inspection.
For “In the Shadow of Machu Picchu: Andean Life Past and Present,”
Miller enlisted the help of university art Professor Amy Rodman, an
Andean scholar. Rodman appears as a “pop-up” scholar in
several locations on the virtual tour.
Media Contact: Nancy Ackley, Associate Dir. of Public
Affairs, (510) 885-4295