CSU Hayward -- November 14, 2003

National Exhibition Includes Machu Picchu Virtual Tour Created by Cal State Hayward Team

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 George Miller.

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 city.

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 tour.

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 site.

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 said.

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


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