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

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.


GIS Research


Part of the multidisciplinary approach to understanding the dynamic interaction between Europeans and Africans in West Africa and that region’s integration within a larger Atlantic world system involves historical and cartographic research. Maps, sketches, and documents reveal important information about the spatial distribution of various European empires’ trade lodges, forts, and castles. The Digital Scholarship Lab assisted by guiding and training in the use of GIS platforms to bring together many different types of historical data and make this data interactive by creating layers that reflect changes over time and across space.

Map of gold coast forts- Ghana

Time aware map of forts

This map uses a dynamic time slider to represent five hundred years of history in roughly four minutes. It was made to complicate an often-asserted but somewhat misleading statement about the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) that “at one time or another, nine European countries . . . kept fortified stations in West Africa . . . to protect and expand the trade of each country and to exclude competitors.”(A.W. Lawrence, Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa (London, 1963), 25.)

View Live Version of Map

Project team
Mike Jarvis
Project status
Ongoing Project