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3-D scans add a new dimension to preservation

Mystic Seaport historians used a 3-D scan during renovation work on the historic Charles W. Morgan whaling vessel.
Mystic Seaport historians used a 3-D scan during renovation work on the historic Charles W. Morgan whaling vessel.

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sThe Boston Public Library is using three-dimensional laser scans in its $16 million renovation project on Boylston Street. At Mystic Seaport, the scans have been crucial in caring for a historic whaling ship. The images also revealed a 300-year-old staircase within the walls of the Old State House downtown.

About five years ago, Feldman Land Surveyors of Boston embarked on a pro bono campaign to render 3-D images of local historic sites such as the Paul Revere House in the North End, the Clapp Family Barn in Dorchester, and the African American Meeting House on Beacon Hill. The initial idea was simply to create nifty images.

“When you combine technology and history, people get excited.” Michael Feldman, the firm’s president. “We have so many historic buildings in Boston. We should be recording them.”

But the images have also become a useful tool for preservationists seeking minutely detailed renderings of historic properties. While the scans are an excellent way to document sites for posterity, experts say, they’ve also been helpful in millions of dollars’ worth of renovation work across New England and beyond.

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