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St Kilda to be digitally recorded in 3D

27 June 2011

One of Scotland’s most remote and spectacular locations is to be recorded in 3D.

A team of experts from the Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation (CDDV), a partnership between Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art, have travelled to the UNESCO World Heritage site of St. Kilda to begin digitally laser scanning the site, which lies 41 miles off the Scottish mainland.

Work is expected to take two weeks and will include scanning of the physical make up of St. Kilda as well as the main structures on the islands such as the blackhouses and 19th Century dwellings in Village Bay. The team will also record the more remote archaeological remains of the Amazon’s House and Callum Mor’s House.

The site is being laser scanned as part of the Scottish Ten project, a ground breaking initiative which uses cutting edge technology to digitally record all five of Scotland’s world heritage sites and five international sites in order to better conserve and manage them.

By using the most advanced laser scanning technology, the team can develop exceptionally accurate, down to the millimetre, 3 dimensional archival records of some of the world’s most spectacular heritage sites. This can be used to monitor changes to the structures as well as providing the basis for remote access, education and interpretation resources to allow a much wider audience to experience many of the world’s heritage sites.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said;

“The Scottish Ten is a hugely important project, not only for Scotland but also on an international basis.

“Heritage crosses boundaries and tells the story of peoples and nations. Scotland’s expertise in digitally documenting historical sites is providing tangible benefits at both home and abroad and this project will continue to increase our understanding of and help to better care for heritage sites around the world.

“St Kilda is a truly fascinating site by its very remoteness, its stunning landscape and the physical landmarks left by the people who shaped it and I very much look forward to seeing the results of this ground breaking work.”

As part of the trip the team will be using terrestrial laser scanners, GNSS devices and 360% photography to digitally create a detailed 3D model. This will take the form of a two week period of fieldwork followed by processing, examination and interpretation of the data.

David Mitchell, Director of Conservation for Historic Scotland said;

“St. Kilda poses a number of challenges for the team in terms of its physical make-up, however that it what makes it so exciting.

“We plan to conduct phased fieldwork over the course of the trip which will look at the island’s geographic environment as well as some of its most recognisable structures.

“The technology will allow us to record a never seen before level of detail into the island and its structures which we hope will greatly enhance our understanding of St. Kilda.”

The team has also commissioned airborne LiDAR scanning of the islands which has never been attempted before.

Doug Pritchard, Head of Visualisation at Glasgow School of Art said;

“The LIDAR scanning has the potential to bring a new dimension to our knowledge of St. Kilda.

“Many parts of the islands are inaccessible by foot so we are looking at accessing a number of areas that have never been surveyed before which could provide some really interesting material about the island and how it developed.”

The island is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland who in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and Scottish Natural Heritage runs a continuing programme of conservation and research on the islands.

Susan Bain, the National Trust for Scotland’s St. Kilda Property Manager said;

“We are delighted to welcome representatives from Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art to St. Kilda.

“This technology has the potential to increase our opportunities to share the island with a much wider audience than ever before and we very much look forward to receiving the finished data.”


Please note that an HS film and stills photographer will be with the team and will be able to issue both from the site. Please get in contact with Iona Matheson if you have any specific requirements.

You can also find out more about the project by following us on twitter @scottishten or by visiting the website

Notes to Editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

  • The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is one of the United Kingdom’s (UK) most successful higher education institutions specialising in architecture, design and fine art.  It has an established reputation world wide for high quality education and research which is demonstrated by the outstanding successes of its students and graduates and the professional standing of its staff.  It is home to an international community of 1700 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying in the schools of Architecture, Design and Fine Art, or at the Digital Design Studio. For further information:

For further information

Iona Matheson
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8703 or 07827 956 858