Texas A&M prof, students to create models to help preserve Alamo

BRYAN, Texas — A team of Texas A&M researchers is using new technology to uncover the history of the Alamo and help preserve it for future generations.

A&M architecture professor Robert Warden, director of the university's Center for Heritage Conservation, is leading a team of graduate students from A&M, Texas A&M University at Kingsville, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

The team is creating the first digital models of the Alamo that will capture the Texas landmark at different points in its history — in 1836 for the Battle of the Alamo; in 1885, when the city of San Antonio became the site's custodian; and in 1961, when drawings of the site were created by the Historic American Building Survey.

The 2-D and 3-D models will be used not only to track how the structure has changed throughout the years, but also to provide insight into how environmental factors have weathered the Alamo and what measures can be taken to protect it.

"It's never been done before," said the Alamo's conservator, Pam Rosser. "Once this is complete, it will create lots of information that can be used for historical purposes, but also for maintenance purposes. We can compare everything now with older photos and compare how the building has aged over time and what we need to do to prolong the longevity of the building."

Carolina Marique, Texas A&M Ph.D. student in architecture, has made two trips to the Alamo to use 3-D lasers to scan the interior and exterior of two remaining pieces of the Alamo — the chapel and the long barracks.

"With digital models, we are able to gather very, very detailed info on each of the sections and the walls," Marique said. "We can zoom in on digital images and keep track of things."

Their efforts will help track changes made to the building over the decades, such as how the U.S. Army converted a window into a door.

Marique described the analysis as a sort of hunt through history.

"We're able to detect very fine layers of history," Marique said. "We're getting into really fine detailing to try and graph this maybe missing history."

Rosser said she was grateful for the assistance.

"I'm the only conservator here at the Alamo, and I can't afford to hire people to help me or buy the wonderful equipment A&M has," Rosser said. "A&M is supplying Texas history with valuable pieces of information of the Alamo and the long barracks."

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