Evolution of a Campus: The First 250 Years of Princeton

An Interactive Computer Graphics History


"Evolution of a Campus: The First 250 Years of Princeton" is a computer-based, interactive tool that will allow users to see what the Princeton University campus looked like at any point in its 250-year history. Evolution of a Campus will serve as an interactive document of the University's architectural history, and is expected to meet the challenge of building computerized image-to-text connections, a fundamental component of the future of scholarly computing at Princeton.

Evolution of a Campus will become a valuable research and educational tool with applications for many institutions. The project will be featured during Princeton's 250th Anniversary Celebration in 1996 and 1997.

Evolution of a Campus

This unprecedented computer program will feature: three-dimensional images of all the buildings on the University campus (including some that no longer exist), a detailed chronological narrative, and landscape modelling. By "pointing and clicking," users will use this new technology to move through campus, view images of campus buildings from all angles, and call up supporting documentation.

Documentation linked to images will include pertinent dates, architects, functions, sources of funding, original architectural renderings of campus buildings, an oral history, and perhaps, an aerial photographic survey. In addition, "The Princeton Companion," a book containing a historical survey of the University's acquisition of land and the development of its campus, articles on its principal buildings, and portraits of notable personalities, will be indexed and incorporated into the textual database.


More than twenty people are currently participating in the development of Evolution of a Campus, including nearly a dozen students. Robert J. Clark, distinguished professor of art and archaeology, will serve as architectural historian. He oversees the research for visual images and the documentation of changes made on the Princeton campus.

Kirk D. Alexander, manager of the Interactive Computer Graphics Laboratory at Princeton, manages the technical aspects of the project. Alexander has nearly 20 years of experience in systems and applications programming.

Richard L. Golden, associate dean of Princeton's School of Engineering and Applied Science, serves as project director. He is responsible for coordinating the architectural, historical, and technical aspects of the project.

As the project progresses, other staff, faculty, and students will be added to the team. Their tasks will include:

Project researchers are using as their primary resource, Princeton's Mudd Library Archives. The Archives hold more than 80,000 photographs, slides, and renderings pertaining to the University campus which will be scanned into the project's database. In addition, passages from many historic University documents will be cross-referenced within the documentation for easy access by users.

Scholarly Computing at Princeton

Interdisciplinary scholarship is a rapidly evolving concept, as is the role of computing in scholarship and teaching. At Princeton University, in fact, there is a rising tide of interest in computer applications across the campus and across scholarly disciplines. There are, however, few tools that allow for the computerized connection of disparate classes of information.

As a result, both teacher and student must learn an array of platforms and applications to bridge the technological gaps between disciplines.

The University has taken the preliminary steps toward developing the capability to connect different disciplines via computer. An outstanding need, cited by both faculty and students, is the ability to connect text to image. Evolution of a Campus is expected to meet this challenge by building the framework for image-to-text connections. In so doing, the project will also lay the groundwork for the future of the University's interdisciplinary, scholarly computing.

Sharing the Technology

The benefits of Evolution of a Campus will extend far beyond Princeton's gates. We have received inquiries from several organizations interested in using the project's technology as a model for use with their own historic sites and museums. This early feedback shows us that the proposed technology will be of long-term archival value, and will serve as an important tool for the study and preservation of both single and multiple-structure historic sites.