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CCU professor uses technology to recreate, explore ancient structures

February 7, 2005

In the first of a series of talks by Coastal Carolina University faculty at the Waccamaw Higher Education Center in Litchfield, art historian and professor Arne Flaten will show how new techniques in three-dimensional computer animation are revolutionizing the way we experience ancient buildings and monuments.

"Ashes to Art: Virtual Re-creations of Ancient Monuments" will be presented Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Waccamaw Center. Admission is free.

According to Flaten, a small number of universities, research centers and government agencies worldwide employ sophisticated software to generate three-dimensional animated re-creations and virtual tours of ancient monuments and important historical sites. Those projects enable viewers to enter a "virtual" location such as a Gothic cathedral and tour the structure from a practically unlimited number of viewpoints.

Flaten borrows from those efforts in the classroom, but he and Coastal art professor Paul Olsen hope to move beyond what is currently available on the Web. Their vision, to be offered as a course at CCU beginning fall 2005, will provide fly-throughs, panoramas and access to high-resolution details of various architectural and sculptural elements, floor plans, stained glass, mosaics, etc., with links to discussions of iconography, artistic process and materials, as well as historical summaries.

"'Ashes to Art' is a new concept," says Flaten, who earned a Ph.D. from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2001. "Quite simply, it will bring back ancient monuments into a fully searchable, rotatable, immersion experience. It utilizes cutting edge video and 3-D rendering software, on-site measurements, and current research in archaeology, economics, politics, religion, art history, philosophy and socio-cultural history."

Flaten's talk is part of "From Global to Local: An Intellectual Exchange," a series of talks by members of the faculty of Coastal's Thomas W. and Robin W. Edward College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Other events in the series, which is sponsored by the college's Board of Visitors, are: "Remembering the Crusades: a Historian's Perspective" on March 2; Cross d' Water: The Story of Sandy Island" on March 23; and 'How Can I Keep from Singing?: Legacy of the American Art Song" on April 13.

For more information, call 349-2421.