Enhancing Engagement with 3D Heritage Data through Semantic Annotation


The 1938 British Empire Exhibition was a stunning display of architectural achievement and a reflection of the life and culture of Glasgow, the UK and the Commonwealth. It incorporated over 100 innovative buildings, including the world famous Tait’s Tower and attracted over 12.5million people to Bellahouston Park, Glasgow over its six month run. This last public showcase of the Empire was of huge international significance and continues to be relevant to the study of British social and industrial history and modernist architecture. In 2006, Glasgow School of Art's Digital Design Studio ran the AHRC-funded "British Empire Exhibition, Glasgow 1938" project which consulted as many sources and individuals as possible in order to build an accurate 3D digital model from which the planning of the Exhibition and its architectural style can be examined. The main output was the production of well researched and constructed, photo-real, 3D models of the principal buildings and structures that comprised the Exhibition together with an accurate 3D map showing the relationship of the various buildings, road and pathways and water features, to the topography of Bellahouston Park. As part of this research, DDS collected and digitised a large archive of related cultural artefacts (architectural plans, photos, ephemera) and recorded interviews with people who had visited the Exhibition and architecture scholars. Images, videos, and an overview of the 3D model with some interactivity are available on the project website at http://www.empireexhibition1938.co.uk

In February 2010, the Digital Design Studio was successful in winning additional AHRC funding to enhance engagement with this remarkable resource through a new project entitled “Enhancing Engagement with 3D Heritage Data through Semantic Annotation”. The purpose of this project was to combine the experience gained through “The British Empire Exhibition, Glasgow 1938” with the Digital Design Studio’s considerable expertise in digital documentation and an exceptionally unique real-time visualisation facility in order to enhance access to and engagement with the data gathered for the British Empire Exhibition project and provide an extensible toolkit for researchers to use with other 3D datasets. The project aimed to improve interpretation of the Exhibition by linking, in a meaningful way, the related cultural artefacts on which the 3D model was based with the modelled data itself. In order to achieve this linkage between the 3D data and related information, the Digital Design Studio developed a tool which allows users to ‘annotate’ the data, and attach those annotations (or files) to points of space within the virtual model, as well as adding relationships between different attached objects (for example, adding notes to architectural features or linking all the photographs taken by a particular photographer). The database of annotations is export-compatible with CIDOC-CRM.

“It is a great privilege to be able to carry forward our original research on the 1938 British Empire Exhibition and we are working with Historic Scotland to apply what we learn to other areas of Scotland’s built heritage,” Said Douglas Pritchard, the Digital Design Studio’s Head of Visualisation. “We’re very excited to have the opportunity to improve accessibility to this amazing resource for the academic world as well as local people.”

The Enhancing Engagement with 3D Heritage Data through Semantic Annotation project was graded by the AHRC as “An outstanding proposal meeting world-class standards of scholarship, originality, quality and significance”. It allows both researchers and the general public to virtually experience and collaboratively annotate environments which are inaccessible either because they no longer exist or because they are too far away or dangerous to access as well as increasing our understanding of the outstanding achievement of the historic 1938 British Empire Exhibition.


Project Overview

Research outputs:

  1. Empire 3D – software for viewing 3D models and annotations

  1. Daisy Abbott, Kim Bale, Ramy Gowigatti, Douglas Pritchard, Paul Chapman, “Empire 3D: A Collaborative Semantic Annotation Tool for Virtual Environments” Modelling Simulation, Visualization, Worldcomp 2011, 18th-21st July 2011

  1. Public demonstrations of the software in Lab1 at DDS.

  1. Further publications and events pending.