Preserving history for the future

Clint Lawson (left), a man on a mission to turn historic buildings into virtual reality, has scanned and created an online walk-through of St Andrews Church, with the help of church vicar Reverend Malcolm French (right) feeding information into the online tour.

One of Cambridge’s most historic buildings has been immortalized in cyber space thanks to a scanning project which has created a virtual reality tour of the iconic St Andrews Church.

Cambridge resident Clint Lawson had often driven past and admired the towering Anglican structure, built of heart kauri by W G Connolly in 1881. “So to actually be able to come and scan it is quite a privilege,” he said.

“I’ve always had an affinity for older buildings, and this is a building I’ve always wanted to scan, so I was quite pleased when (Reverend) Malcolm (French) said ‘We’d love for you to do it’.”

“It’s an absolutely beautiful building. And it’s important work, because it’s preserving our history for future generations. Just look at Notre-Dame, imagine if they’d done a virtual tour of it.”

Lawson – who usually scans businesses, buildings, tourist attractions and real estate properties as part of his business, Visualize Tourism – is also scanning historic buildings at no charge for the greater good of historic record.

“We want to do other historic buildings in Cambridge, as many as we can – the older the better,” he said.

St Andrews Church it the oldest building Lawson has worked on so far, having scanned around 150 properties across the country over the past year.

The scans are turned into a virtual reality tour where users – on a computer, iPad or smartphone – can explore the entire building and find information points about the building itself and its various features.

The St Andrews scan features several points of information, including the stories behind the various stain glass windows.

“We’re making it educational, so that people will be able to walk through and read about it,” said Lawson.

“The stain glass windows are probably one of the most striking features.”

The scan will soon be available through the Visualize Tourism website – visualizetourism.co.nz – and through a “Visualize Cambridge” Facebook page. The St Andrews parish will also have a copy of the scan for their records.

The church vicar, Reverend Malcolm French, was pleased to see an electronic record of the church being made and appreciated the benefits the online presence could bring.

“It’s beautiful and historic, so the opportunity to feature our church like that online is pretty amazing,” he said. “And it has the capacity to show off some of the beautiful features we’ve got, like the Le Quesnoy memorial, the detailed woodwork, it will all be visible when you go through. It’s really quite amazing.”

The scanning comes as the church celebrated its 138th birthday on August 31, and in four years’ time the parish will celebrate its 150th birthday.

Residents can still take a real-life tour of the church with the building open to visitors most weekdays from 9am to 1pm. Weekly services take place each Sunday from 9.30am.

Lawson said he planned to scan more iconic old buildings around the country, and had already spoken with Waipa District Council about scanning other historical buildings in the district.

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