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Modern history

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Interested in how the master mason at Wells Cathedral dealt with the sinking of the central tower in 1338? If you wanted to learn this kind of esoteric construction history, a website might not be the first place you would look.

But the University of the West of England is undertaking a web-based project on the cathedral using the latest in 3D computer modelling technology, which, it says, could act as a prototype.The university argues that other sites of historic importance in Europe could use a similar approach to provide virtual access to historic buildings and their collections.

Project-managed by Bob Grimshaw of the university's faculty of the built environment, the project uses a 3D model of the cathedral and its setting as a portal.Once through the portal (and having adjusted screen settings, as there is a tendency on a small screen to squeeze everything off the edges), users can access the documents.There are about 500 digitally recorded medieval documents from a library and archive that stretch back almost 1,000 years.

There are many gems in there, and the effort is to be applauded.Whether people interested in delving into the minutiae of historic documents care about starting off with a virtual fly-round of the cathedral is another matter.

Judge for yourself at http: //environment. uwe. ac. uk. /virtual

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