UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


How holiday photos can help monitor heritage sites

7 May 2020

Led by ISH PhD student Rosie Brigham, Monument Monitor is a project in collaboration with Historic Environment Scotland, using visitors’ photographs to assist with heritage management.

Holiday snap shows an adult and child at a stone heritage site in Scotland

While the country is in Lockdown, the project team are now asking members of the public to look through their old holiday snaps. Visiting heritage sites is no longer possible for most of us, however people have still been helping contribute to real scientific research by dusting off old photo albums and sending in their holiday snaps.

The 20 different case study sites in Scotland include Clava Cairns, which inspired the ‘time-travelling stones’ at the centre of popular period drama Outlander. Since the programme’s broadcast in 2014, the huge increase of visitor numbers at the site has caused concern, as it is unstaffed, and therefore difficult to assess what potential issues may be caused by increased footfall. Visitor photos can be used to see how much the increased visitor numbers could have eroded the ground around the cairn entrances.

To map conservation, the team are using photogrammetry to produce a 3D point cloud from overlapping images taken from different perspectives. Taken together, these can help to create accurate measurements of eroded areas. Alongside this, known measurements (such as the width of the stones at the cairn entrances) are used to calculate the ratio of pixels in areas of interest allowing us to measure scale of the erosion over time.

Project lead Rosie Brigham is a SEAHA PhD student based at UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage. Her research, partnered with Historic Environment Scotland, Rekrei, and Instadeep, explores how crowdsourced images can be used for conservation monitoring.

Read more about the project on the SEAHA website.

Help Monument Monitor from home

Send us your old photos to help preserve historic sites - submit your photos to submissions@monumentmonitor.co.uk.
For the full list of sites included in the project visit the Monument Monitor website.