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The birthplace of naturalist John Muir in Dunbar, Scotland, is being digitally scanned as part of the project where visitors at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez will be able to virtually tour the Scottish site.

John Muir National Historic Site visitors will be digitally transported to his birthplace and childhood home in Dunbar, Scotland, and Scottish Natural Heritage visitors in Dunbar will be able to take a virtual 3-D tour of Muir's home in Martinez.

Oakland-based nonprofit CyArk team captured the 1883 Victorian mansion where Scottish-born American naturalist John Muir lived, using a three-dimensional portable laser scanner in early August.

"It took three days to scan the nine-acre Muir site, including the entire four-story Victorian mansion, the exterior of the Martinez Adobe and Muir's grave," said project manager Scott Lee.

The U.S. National Park Service is cooperating with CyArk, which has an office in Edinburgh, Scotland, and with Scottish park organizations.

"It is a great opportunity to highlight the parks, and formalize our sister park relationship and the legacy of John Muir," said park superintendent Tom Leatherman.

"We see this as the first step in making the connection with of all of the places that John Muir went and wrote about in terms of conservation."

The same scan process is occurring in Scotland now.

"Historic Scotland (personnel) are excited ... to digitally survey John Muir's birthplace and childhood environment of Dunbar Scotland, the area which inspired his lifelong passion for nature," said Lyn Wilson, Historic Scotland's digital survey manager.


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CyArk archives the data and generates free online portals as part of its Digital Heritage Preservation Project effort to create an accurate digital record of 500 historic sites around the world. Among them are the Tower of London and the ruins at Pompeii, Italy.

Other benefits of the 3-D recording is its accuracy, in case of the destruction of a significant site by fire or other unforeseen event, the ability to virtually reconstruct a vision of the original edifice from existing ruins, and as a teaching tool.

The Muir projects were funded and inspired by Natural Scotland, the John Muir Birthplace Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage in conjunction with Scotland's National Tourism's "Homecoming Scotland 2014" celebration.

Scotland's natural beauty and biodiversity, as well as Muir's birthplace are among the attractions that the Scottish government hopes will draw its descendants for a visit.

"The scanning data will be shared with conservators at both sites to assist with improved site management and interpretation. Additionally, mobile apps and information kiosks will be produced for both sites," said Lee.

Lee explained that the hyper-color -- known as intensity -- is how the laser scanner sees the building.

"We then will post process this and add color with 360-degree photos taken from the positions of the scanner," he said.

The park service is excited about new virtual tours of Muir's homes. They will likely be launched in time for the annual John Muir Birthday/Earth Day event next April, said Leatherman.

A similar John Muir Festival will take place in Scotland in late April, which would include opening of a new walking and cycling route across Scotland between Dunbar and Helensburgh.

"We expect that the interactive kiosk will also allow the public to view rooms (in the Martinez Victorian) that are not open for public viewing, such as the water tank room," he said.

John Muir chronicled his discoveries of flora and fauna during many prolonged walks through the Sierras and explorations of glaciers in Alaska.

He shared his knowledge and love of nature through books, letters and drawings. Muir is credited with helping to convince President Theodore Roosevelt and other politicians to pass a national park bill in 1890, and establish Yosemite National Park among others. Muir is often referred to as the father of modern environmentalism.

The John Muir National Historic Site is at 4202 Alhambra Ave., Martinez. The visitor center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Call 925-228-8860.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com or call 925-202-9292.