Creating Virtual Tourism and 3D Model Collections that Commemorate the Craftsmanship and Legacy of President Jimmy Carter

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By: Lori Collins, Ph.D., Associate Research Professor and co-Director, Center for Digital Heritage and Geospatial Information 

Virtual tours and immersive learning tools such as virtual and augmented reality and 3D modeling are offering new ways to explore, share, and learn about places and history. As libraries and museums have moved to embrace these types of content, the University of South Florida Libraries’ Center for Digital Heritage and Geospatial Information (USF CDHGI) have developed partnership programs including with several National Parks that allow new means of outreach and engagement.

One such ongoing partnership program, funded through the Friends of Jimmy Carter and in conjunction with the National Park Service Jimmy Carter National Historical Park (NPS JICA), has our USF team working in Plains, Georgia to bring the workmanship and legacy of the nation’s 39th President to life through online heritage tours and 3D digital collections.  

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Some of the USF CDHGI team members shown working at the Plains Depot, Georgia. In 1975, the depot became headquarters for the Carter presidential campaign and today the site is part of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park. (Photo credit Frank Rodriquez).

The collaborative effort has included the documentation of select architectural structures, features, artifacts, and furnishings associated with the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park. Locations brought into virtual space include the Plains High School, which today is the park headquarters and museum site, the Plains Depot, and the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm. The resulting three-dimensional models, virtual reality applications, and heritage tours, are being used to develop interpretive media to engage and educate the public and to assist with park management. The project concentration has been to use advanced imaging and laser scanning to document President Carter’s one-of-a-kind furnishings that he created throughout his lifetime.  

Fieldwork documentation began in 2021 with postproduction recently concluding, resulting in a variety of online and virtual reality applications and tours, as well as laying the foundation for a USF Libraries digital collection. The resulting 3D models and animations will be an innovative and unique opportunity to engage and educate the public about aspects of the life of our nation’s 39th President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, including pre- and post-Presidency historical relevance.  

Jimmy Carter furniture making design national park boyhood home USF Digital heritage
3D Specialist Jorge Gonzalez using structured light laser scanning to document a pine board couch with rope bottom that was made by Jimmy Carter and still in use as a favorite spot in the Carter home today.

The USF CDHGI team has had the honor of not only helping to document the work and life of President Carter, but to meet and share the research with the President, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and Chip Carter during fieldwork at the sites.

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The USF team presenting the technologies and early project concepts and results to President Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter at the Plains High School in 2021 (Photo credit NPS JICA).

The furniture documentation included pieces on display at the park’s museum and depot sites, as well as items still in use at the Carter’s modest home in Plains. The vernacular and unique furnishings digitally recorded included a number of utilitarian pieces and ranged from cabinetry and hutches, bedroom furniture, chests and tables, chairs, couches, and a daybed. 

The virtual tours developed include several of the 3D models and complete 360-degree imaging and video, with a tour of the boyhood farm also featuring narration from Jimmy Carter, audio clips that provide immersive engagement, and 3D architecture models and video animation content.   

USF digital heritage library collection jimmy Carter boyhood home national park #d virtual tour

USF’s Benjamin Mittler and Denise Wright work to capture 360 terrains at the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm location. (Photo credit Frank Rodriquez).
3D virtual tour jimmy Carter boyhood home national park USF digital heritage

A 3D point cloud from terrestrial laser scanning of the Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm site.

Future directions for the USF research work include the refinement of a digital archive of the Carter furnishing and continued creation of content and curriculum with interpretive products that will be utilized by USF and the NPS JICA. All the collections and virtual tours are underpinned by lessons of ethics and hard work that are part of the Carter legacy.  

jimmy Carter USF digital heritage libraries national park 3d virtual reality
Using structured light scanning to capture carved details on the Resolute Desk replica on display at the park’s museum.
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A 3D render from the modeling of the Resolute Desk replica on display at the Plains High School exhibit.


Virtual Tour of the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park Boyhood Farm viewable on computers, mobile devices, and VR enabled for headset devices 

Virtual Tour of the Plains Depot Campaign Headquarters

The Woodworking of President Jimmy Carter
A 3D model collection

Jimmy Carter National Historical Park Architecture
A 3D model collection of historic architecture

A combined collection of the 3D work the USF CDHGI has performed for the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park sites

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