Yesterday morning, the Shaker Heritage Society unveiled Virtual Watervliet, a new interpretive project focusing on the virtual reconstruction of the publically accessible portions of the Historic District. Virtual Watervliet will allow SHS to achieve its mission to cultivate an interest in Shaker history while increasing awareness of the historic site and support for its preservation. This project will empower SHS through the use of innovative technologies to serve both on-site and virtual visitors. The Virtual Watervliet Project was funded through grants from the Assemblyman Reilly Salary fund and the NYS Council on the Arts with an extraordinarily generous in-kind contribution from Virtual Grounds LLC.

The virtual reconstruction offers an opportunity to create a visual overview of the development of the Shaker community over time. This is an exciting prospect because a large number of Shaker buildings were torn down in the past. With a couple mouse clicks, the evolution of the historic site becomes visually accessible to people who participate in the Society’s education programs, to local residents and to virtual visitors around the world. These users can explore this resource at will, gaining both a deeper understanding of the site itself and greater perspective on its part in history.

The project is centered on the digital visualization of the Shaker Buildings, both extant and demolished, in the Church Family of the Watervliet Shaker Community, combining established and innovative technologies as:

3D Earth Browsing – development of an interface for Google Earth—an online virtual globe—using the Keyhole Markup Language (KML), a file format able to specify geographical information locating the digital models of the Shaker buildings in a virtual terrain.

Augmented Reality – superimposition of computer generated graphics onto real-time views of the world. The process combines technologies now commonly embedded in mobile phones, including digital camera, GPS, compass and accelerometer.

Object Hyperlinking – use of 2D barcode tags to connect selected places in the historical site with web pages for mobile devices. These tags can be scanned by visitors using a cell phone equipped with a camera, providing in-depth information about buildings, landscape features, or historical events associated with key locations.

Visitors will be able to access this project through a computer or smart phone; by using a web-based application, it will be available to a variety of phones (iPhone, Android, Windows, etc.) without needing to download an app.

This is a very exciting opportunity for SHS to embrace new technologies in an effort to create a more meaningful experience for visitors and connect the site with people from around the globe. The first phase of the project is expected to be available via our website ( in September.

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