Recording, Visualizing, Analyzing and Preserving Ghana’s Cultural Heritage


A Multidisciplinary Laboratory for Research and Education 

As the earliest and oldest surviving European fortification in Sub-Saharan Africa and for its historical role as a major commercial and slave trading site, Elmina Castle has enormous historical and cultural significance. From a cultural heritage perspective, the castle’s initial construction and continuous rebuilding under the Portuguese, Dutch, and British introduced materials and technologies new to West Africa while also reflecting changes in European military architectural development. This makes it an ideal site for studying how European military building technology evolved and was adapted to West African conditions. The castle has longstanding links to the community and hinterlands that surround it spanning more than five centuries. Furthermore, it occupies a prominent place in the Black Atlantic as a embarkation point for tens of thousands of enslaved Africans and as a modern day pilgrimage site for African Americans whose ancestors passed through en route to American and Caribbean destinations.

The Digital Elmina Research Project

A joint international research collaboration between the University of Ghana and the University of Rochester launched in 2017, the Digital Elmina Field School blends archaeological, ethnographic, historical, and engineering study of Elmina Castle and nearby historic buildings, using state-of-the-art methodologies and technologies. Using laser scanning, photogrammetry, digital solid modeling, and traditional field recording techniques, we are creating a highly detailed digital model for multi-disciplinary study, virtual modern and historical visualizations, and material conservation of the castle. We seek to better understand Elmina’s past, convey this knowledge in the present, and ensure the castle’s survival in the future. Concurrent ethnographic fieldwork project investigates the current relationships between historic sites, local people, and visitors to the castle. The field school also serves as a research site for training graduate students and early career scholars from archaeology and engineering and allied fields, enabling them to acquire valuable professional technical and interpretive skills.

Created with 3,000 ground and UAV images using Agisoft Photoscan/Metashape, the low resolution model below provides a basic guided introduction to Elmina Castle. Click on numbered points or use the scroll bar to take the tour or explore it on your own.  We are working on a much higher resolution, fully interactive digital exploration experience using the Unity engine that will also be optimized for VR visualization.

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