USF Sustainable Tourism Team Retheads Visitors’ Experience to Help Save Egmont Key

Part 2 of a two-part series.

The USF project, “Key Egmont Project: Virtualization Technologies for At-Risk Heritage and Sustainable Tourism in Tampa Bay,” is now in its third year.

“The paradigm of sustainable tourism can be summed up in a simple way. It’s the triple result: it’s people, the planet and prosperity. I always put prosperity last, because yes, we value our tourism industry: it’s our industry number one – But we have to put our planet, the environment and people first … that means when we think of cultural heritage: who are all the people associated with this wonderful place we visit? ” Dr. Brooke Hansen, director of the Sustainable Tourism Concentration at Patel College, who co-directs the program with the director of the USF Access 3D lab, Dr. Laura Harrison.

Egmont has a fascinating wealth of history, but Hansen chose to focus specifically on the three-year Seminole internment era after connecting with the Florida Seminole Tribal Historical Preservation Office (Florida). THPO) and learn the Seminoles ’stated desire to raise awareness.

“Part of learning history is being there, experiencing it, thinking about it and feeling it. I can’t find a better place to stop and reflect on all those things that are overlooked, such as “We have to think about these things as we move towards a world that values ​​diversity, inclusion and the multiple voices and perspectives,” he said. Hansen.

Its goal is to apply the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the Egmont project to encourage a holistic shift toward sustainable tourism practices across the state.

“[SDGs are] basically systems thinking: a holistic framework to make us understand that the challenges we face do not occur in isolation or in silos. From species extinction to pollution, to hunger and poverty, all of this is an interconnected problem. We need to see them that way and come up with interconnected solutions, ”says Hansen.

Master’s students in the Sustainable Tourism program use Egmont Key as a “living learning lab,” he adds, to explore techniques that strengthen visitor participation, establish interpretations of more culturally informed places, and foster environmental stewardship. Students enrolled in the program are certified as Florida Public Archeology Network (FPAN) heritage tracking explorers who monitor risk sites like Egmont to detect climate impacts using an interactive statewide GPS map database.

Hansen’s team will encourage all Egmont visitors to join the citizen science efforts by uploading photos to a Facebook page that will be launched soon. In addition to helping the FPAN monitor heritage sites at risk, Hansen’s team hopes to gather photos submitted by visitors to Facebook as a way to monitor and raise public awareness about the vulnerable population of Egmont gopher turtles, sea turtles and bird populations. The photographs also help heritage explorers know when they should return to Egmont to formally document the new erosion.

“Let them help us document it and collect data so that we can all be scientists together, especially in our very vulnerable areas, such as Egmont Key. The more we engage visitors in activities like citizen science, the more they will care. we want them to invest; we want them to invest in places they visit, and that goes through commitment, ”says Hansen.

USF Access 3D Lab recreates Egmont Key sites in a virtual realm

Dr. Harrison joined the Egmont Key project in 2018 to oversee his virtualization efforts. Help Hansen Sustainable Tourism students use Access 3D Lab technology, which includes photogrammetry, 360-degree imaging and LiDAR terrestrial scanning, to document the island. Through these 3D explorations, spaces such as the interior of the Egmont Key lighthouse, which is normally closed to the public, become accessible and explorable in a virtual format. Educational “Matterport tags” offer historical context and environmental facts at the click of a button.

“A big part of the use of these digital datasets is their ability to visualize … you can communicate ideas more effectively with the general public. Sometimes there is a limitation in which scientific research is silenced in “One of the advantages of the digital age is that it allows us to visually communicate many complex ideas,” says Harrison.

Since there are no longer any visible remains of the camp where the Seminoles were imprisoned, Harrison’s team focuses on documenting Egmont’s surroundings and the heritage sites that still exist, such as the ruins of the time of the Latin American war Fort Dade, which rum runners and executioners later used as hiding places during the Prohibition of the 1920s, with sensitivity to the past that darkened when these structures were built in the late 1800s.

“Egmont Key is unique in that it has a connection to a descendant community, the Seminole tribe, so there are oral histories linked to a lot of intangible history. It has also been an integral part of Tampa Bay in terms of the historical development of Tampa Bay. the region, ”Harrison says.

“We have the measurements, we have the photos, we have the interpretation. Now, with digital technologies, we can bring all these things together, especially in the case of something like virtual and augmented reality, where you can have multimedia. You can have audio, visual, interactivity. Combining all of these things creates a product that is quantitatively and qualitatively different from a traditional archaeological interpretation, ”says Harrison.

Scans also provide a framework for strategizing current preservation efforts, thanks to the millimeter accuracy that the 3D point cloud allows, Harrison says.

“If a hurricane occurs, we can go back and identify some specific areas, down to a millimeter level, where damage has occurred. It is also the type of product that can be shared with architects, engineers and conservators. These are CAD files formatted … so we can work with these professionals to design strategies that use this three-dimensional data in order to develop real data-based disaster management and conservation plans, ”she says.

Can Egmont Key exist in augmented reality for future generations?

Efforts to preserve Egmont include a mix of short-term goals to raise public awareness, improve the island’s infrastructure, and foster better environmental management along with a rain of long-term ideas “and if …” for the worst of all: the impending demise of Egmont.

The effect that COVID-19 had on urging a shift to virtual-alltogether with the continuous efforts of the USF Sustainable Tourism and Access 3D Laboratory to devise ecological and exclusive ways for visitors to rethink their beach day at Egmont Key, it may have presented an imperfect solution to preserve the day. island – despite the possibility that weather events could swallow it up in decades or less.

The terrestrial laser datasets that Harrison, Hansen, and Patel College students are working to collect at Egmont Key lay the digital foundations for recreating the island in a virtual realm, with click-and-scan capabilities. computer, tablet or smartphone – or even support for VR glasses that allow visitors to explore without physically stepping on the island.

Harrison currently uses the scans to create an Egmont virtual museum with educational multimedia tags, accessible to the global public via the web browser, as well as on an interactive touch screen that Sustainable Tourism students are helping to develop in Egmont.

“I think [V.R.] it’s a great thing. Once the island is gone, we can keep it in the virtual world. It’s not as heavy as being on the island, but being able to walk just about everything and see the island still gives you an idea of ​​things, ”says Quenton Cypress, Community Engagement Manager for the Florida Seminole Tribe.

“I think it helps, especially for people who don’t have the necessary physical capacity [to Egmont Key]. This ferry is a bit difficult, so unless you have a boat made specifically for people who are in wheelchairs or need other accommodation, they may not necessarily get out of it, ”he adds.

Options for preserving Seminolian history could virtually include creating avatars of living descendants of Polly Parker who shared oral histories, or using 19th-century surveys combined with 21st-century 3D explorations to develop an accurate historical representation. of Egmont, as the island would have appeared to the ancestors who were brought there in the 1850s.

Historic archaeologist Dave Scheidecker, who has been working as a research coordinator for the Seminole tribe since 2015, notes that while there is much to consider before these interactive virtual tours of Egmont trace the history of Seminoles. they can come true.

“Of course, we have to work hard and talk to the elderly to see what they should do. You don’t want to turn a horrible part of people’s history into a weird form of entertainment,” he says.

Innovations in contemporary video games, as exemplified in the popular role-playing game, Assassins Creed, give a unique example of what is technologically possible.

“I was able to grab my character and walk around the Library of Alexandria while they recreated it and have things to click on, to access it, with information from archaeologists and historians. It is completely removed from standard video game material; it serves as to educational tool …. We can’t reclaim these places, so it seems as close to us as we can.It captures the eye, brings a whole new understanding and incorporates new people to let them pass.Know this story exists and it’s fascinating, ”says Scheidecker.

There are many things to consider about the future of Egmont Key, but as for the present moment: Cypress is eager to resume trips to the island with members of the Seminole tribe, hopefully, he says, for the autumn months of this year.

“It’s to remind them who we are, where we come from and the struggle and hardships we’ve had to endure to be here today. It opens their eyes; it’s to let them know they don’t take anything for granted,” Cypress says. .

“When you’re out there and you see the mainland in the distance, you go back in time. It can be seen through the eyes of our ancestors.”

Read the first part of this two-part series: Seminole Tribe, USF Sustainable Tourism, and 3D Access Lab rethinking the story in Egmont Key.

Want more information? Don’t forget to read Egmont Key: A Seminole Story.

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