Virtual Synagogues

One hundred years ago Jewish communities flourished in many small towns throughout the State. Most are gone; a once-diffuse population contracted into the largest cities. What remains are a few flaking commercial signs, the cemeteries, and the synagogues. And those, if not sold for other uses or abandoned to decay, have nearly faded from the conscious memory of those who used them. Despite obvious historical and sometimes sentimental interest there is neither the will nor money to physically restore most of them. This project seeks to demonstrate an alternate means of preserving the memory and experience of these souvenirs of Jewish heritage.

Virtual restoration uses computer-aided design techniques to simulate the aural and visual experience of buildings that would otherwise be lost to decay. It is a three-part process: (1) descriptive documentation of the buildings via historical research, field measurement and photography, (2) construction of a navigable 3D solid model, and (3) animation of the model in an interactive VR format (for which you will need the Quicktime viewer).

By themselves the buildings don’t say much; but they were once animated by people, some of whom are still around to tell their stories. Using the town itself as the “script” former (or current) residents will during a recorded walking tour guide us through time and place. In final presentation form the 3D navigable model, photographs, and recordings will be combined to tell the stories of these places.
This project has been underwritten by a grant from the
Texas Jewish Historical Society,
P.O. Box 10193, Austin, TX 78766-0193

Links from the American Jewish Historical Society

Center for American History, Barker Library, Austin, TX