WIT profs create digital Curley House

September 26, 2014
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PONDSIDE—The historic Curley House on the Jamaicaway remains closed to the public. But a hologram-style virtual tour is now available, thanks to Wentworth Institute of Technology professors who have scanned the entire building—inside and out—into a computer.

The City-owned historic home of legendary Boston politician James Michael Curley at 350 Jamaicaway is currently in limbo. A friends group has a plan to turn it into a museum, but legal restrictions on the property’s use have stymied it.

The museum idea inspired WIT professors to study the house as part of an ongoing research class.

The students and profs are focused on “how it might be hypothetically converted into a museum space focused on Curley’s life and his impact on Boston history,” WIT professor Jody Gordon told the Gazette.

Students enrolled in the class “have digitally curated different rooms of the Curley mansion, and we hope to develop a fully functional online space that will allow the public to explore how the house might be transformed to better serve the JP community,” Gordon said.

Gordon and his colleagues created the interdisciplinary class after he worked with a 3-D laser scanner during an archaeological dig in Cyprus last year.

The first semester saw a thorough 3D laser scan of the entire house made pro bono by Feldman Land Surveyors. A YouTube video of that scan is available on the class’s website at studio.wit-mccs.org/curleyproject.

The scan created a hologram-style image of the house in black-and-white. The researchers later added color to it. The highly detailed scans capture everything from the exterior landscaping, to books on shelves inside, to the decorations in stained glass windows.

Each new semester sees the introduction of new technologies. Currently, the class is starting on a new archive platform, “which we’re now planning to use as the backbone for our digital archive and collections,” said WIT professor Christopher Gleason.

“Once we get it into more presentable shape, we hope to make it public [information] as part of a virtual house museum” as part of the class’s website, he added.

As for what the professors would like to see the City do with the property, Gleason said they are “trying to remain scholarly and objective about Curley in general and the house in particular.”

“We feel that by creating this virtual museum, we will be helping to raise awareness about the historical and cultural significance of 350 Jamaicaway, and that this may prove useful to anyone who is interested in Boston history and politics in general or James Michael Curley in particular,” he said.

The grand staircase of the Curley House as seen in the WIT digital image. (Gazette screenshot)

The grand staircase of the Curley House as seen in the WIT digital image. (Gazette screenshot)

The digital scan of the Curley House’s exterior, as seen in a Gazette screenshot of the Wentworth Institute of Technology video.

The digital scan of the Curley House’s exterior, as seen in a Gazette screenshot of the Wentworth Institute of Technology video.

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