The Maple Leaf Civil War Holography Project

Frank DeFreitas*, Bill Pugh**
* Pennsylvania, USA, ** Florida, USA
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The objectives of this project were several–fold. The primary objective was to give high school students an opportunity to experience lasers, optics and holography in a live–project, real–world working environment that had significant value and meaning to their region (Jacksonville, Florida). This was accomplished by recording recovered artifacts from the Maple Leaf shipwreck as large–format (30×40 cm), display holograms, under a tight – and real – production schedule.

Museum objects are extremely valuable – and vulnerable. That is why so few ever leave any museum. If they do leave, there are very high insurance costs due to the ever–present danger of damage or breakage. Keep in mind that even air and light itself can damage some objects over time. Recording the objects as 3–dimensional holograms allow the holograms, rather than the objects, to go on the road – increasing the number of people who can experience their history and their place within our culture. You can only have one “real” object – but you can have numerous holograms of that object being viewed in many different locations, by large numbers of people, all at the same time.

In Ukraine and Russia they have been recording priceless museum artifacts as holograms for decades. They utilize these holograms to educate people who would not make it in to the cultural centers and museums. A good example in England is Lindow Man, a hologram created of a male human body found preserved in the bogs. The actual Lindow Man is on permanent display at the British Museum, but holography has allowed people from all over the world to see it right in front of them as a 3–dimensional hologram.

In the 1980’s, I made holograms of the skeletal remains of a British Revolutionary War solider unearthed at the site of the Battle of Germantown in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The remains were given a proper military burial, then the holograms were placed on display at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. This was a unique project in that the holograms are the only remaining record of this historical find. There are many other examples as well. So, there are already–existing real world practical applications, and many more new ones to explore.

In setting up the program, both myself and Mr. Bill Pugh of Englewood High School in Jacksonville Florida, discussed having a theme to this program. I suggested recording museum objects as display holograms, and Mr. Pugh suggested the Maple Leaf. Mr. Pugh began meeting with museum representatives. It was then through the willingness and cooperation of the Jacksonville Museum of Science & History (MOSH) – along with Mr. Pugh’s representation of the project objectives, that the Maple Leaf became the theme.

It also bears mentioning that the project would not be possible at all without the support of administration, both at Englewood and at the district level of Duval County. This was my third or fourth project visit to Jacksonville over the past 8 years or so, and they have been extremely forthcoming in their commitment to lasers and holography for students.

My role, as always with an educational project such as this, is as a facilitator. This is different than a coordinator. A coordinator deals primarily (but not always exclusively) with the logistics of a project. A facilitator works in a much broader project context. I’m the third party that provides the necessary catalyst to insure that invested participants, at all levels, are able to easily move from point A to point B to achieve their objectives. In short, its basically someone who has an understanding of group dynamics and processes, along with the necessary content skills (in this case, holography), to help the group get the job done. It is part democratic, part directive. A good facilitator knows which applies at any given moment.

I know that all of the students who participated in this project are very excited to have one of their holograms on display at the Holography in the Modern Museum conference. They feel like pioneers by using holography in a museum and archival setting, and in a sense, they certainly are. Other holograms from this project will be displayed at the National Civil War Museum, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida. I am honored to have one in my own personal collection and will cherish it, and the memory of the project, forever.