Visualising Ballarat is an ongoing project, currently in the early stages of development. It employs a collaborative research approach for developing state-of-the-art knowledge management and planning tools which will empower various community sectors to understand the urban landscape, recognise cultural significance, and assess and monitor change. It proposes a staged approach to a long-term research project that will result in web-based spatial information systems, which include 3-dimensional and 4-dimensional visualisations together with augmented reality experiences of past, present and future Ballarat city landscapes.
In September 2013, Ballarat was the first Australian city to join an international pilot program to implement UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL). This recognises the role that urban heritage plays as a social, cultural and economic asset in the development of cities. The HUL program vision is to help Ballarat grow without compromising its heritage; by providing a road map on how to address change without losing Ballarat’s character. At the core of the HUL approach are the community's values, which are the starting point for city management. Hence, there is a need to map these values effectively and have all of Council referencing them as a starting point to city development.
It is envisaged that Visualising Ballarat will have a much broader appeal than HUL, extending through a full range of uses - from the utilitarian, such as locating old mine workings and landfill sites - to the esoteric, such as immersive augmented reality experiences of historical places or events. The key component is to provide the community, practitioners, researchers and industry with place-based information on demand, and hence encourage a deeper understanding, consideration and appreciation of the city's historic urban landscape values.
Federation University Australia's eresearch and digital innovation capability is being utilised to federate HUL information, data and databases to facilitate access to historic urban landscape information. The developing web-based portal will provide easy access to authoritative and credible heritage information for city managers, developers, planners, researchers, communities of interest, groups and agencies wishing to engage in HUL program activities. It will promote the sharing of knowledge and information, allowing people to gain insights, present ideas, advice and information in a friendly and easy-to-use format, available at people’s convenience. It allows the City of Ballarat citizens to grow their knowledge and share their thoughts and enthusiasm for their city's historic urban landscape. In that sense, the website is deliberately aimed in part at supporting ratepayers, citizens and community groups to feel connected and supported in their heritage interests.
The longer-term intention is to encourage the generation of research ideas and projects with other collaborators, locally to globally. This discussion paper outlines a collaborative approach which can be regarded as a blueprint for research that will assist the City of Ballarat and Federation University Australia in achieving their shared goals. The proposed research is founded on the 144-year old relationship between the organisations that has resulted in a substantial repository of regional knowledge. Online liberation of this information, together with that held in the other knowledge repositories of long-standing Ballarat institutions, has the potential to provide new insights into the urban landscapes of this historic city.
This visualisation, which is stage 1 of the Historic Urban Landscapes Project, starts the process of bringing together community activities, research and data from government, academics and other sources. It includes:
- A mapping interface that brings together historic and new data about Ballarat's history and landscape
- Connections to research on Ballarat's history and landscape and the Historic Urban Landscape approach to managing Ballarat
- A place for researchers to have an internet 'home' for their projects
- Connections to existing community activities on Ballarat's heritage and landscape
- Links into the international 'historic urban landscape' community.
This is done through the collection and mapping of data which includes historic landscape imagery, heritage places, parks and gardens, natural landscape and character areas, geological features, community infrastructure and a range of regulatory planning tools and administrative boundaries. This visualisation is part of an interoperable web-GIS maintained by the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation(CeRDI) at Federation University Australia (FedUni).