Students learn the value of preservation in Jonathan Spodek’s documentation and preservation technology studio courses. Students recently worked with the Greentown Historical Society in Greentown, Ind., to document the street facades of the downtown historical district and the interiors of the buildings owned by the Greentown Historical Society at the corner of Meridian and Main streets.

Ball State was commissioned to complete measurements, drawings, and photogrammetry that would completely document the buildings in order to put together a set of Historic American Building Survey drawings. The drawings would then be sent to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. where anyone can access them online. The purpose of this process is to document the existing conditions of historical buildings and to preserve the original integrity of their era that alterations and renovations can destroy.

Students in the studio courses learned how to carry out initial field measurements and field notes on the buildings to take back to the studio to develop preliminary drawings. The drawings were then taken back to the site to continue a more through documentation process: measuring window and door openings, placement of structural elements, and noting the orientation and pattern of the flooring to name a few. A conditions assessment was also performed to document the existing condition of the building such as the condition of exterior masonry and interior water damage.

To perform the photogrammetry on the buildings, students took overlapping pictures of the exteriors. The pictures were processed using two programs that create a 3D mesh model of the exterior. In addition to the 3D mesh, all measurements were input into a CAD program to finalize the drawings.

A written history was also completed. Students met with the historical society and researched online for archival information. The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps were used extensively to see when the buildings changed over time. (The Sanborn Map Company was a publisher of detailed maps of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries and are invaluable for tracking changes in the built environment of American cities over many decades.)

It was discovered that the Greentown buildings were built in the early 1900s and have been home to many businesses including a bank, service station, grocery store, and apartments.

This project was a great hands-on experience for both the students and town representatives who enjoyed learning the processes and understanding their city’s aesthetic and cultural history.

By MSHP students