History Maker Sophia

A Digital Innovator with a passion for bringing past treasures into an online world

My name is Sophia, I’m a Senior Digital Innovation Officer at The Engine Shed and I Make History.

How did you find this role?

I was doing an archaeology degree and my professor asked me to make a 3D model of an artefact. I googled how to do it and after making some models, I completely caught the bug!

I went on to study a Digital Heritage Masters before starting as a Digital Innovation Trainee at The Engine Shed in Stirling. Then I became a Project Officer before landing a Digital Innovation Officer role. The opportunity I've had through starting as a trainee and working my way up the ladder has been life changing. It’s changed the way I view the places around me, and I’ve become really inspired to tell the important stories about historic places and objects. Combining virtual and digital tools is just one way for me to be able to do that.

How would you describe your job in three words?

I would describe my job as: innovative, ever-changing, and important.

What we do here at the Engine Shed is create 3D models of sites and artefacts to create 3D representations and prints of them. To map ancient sites, we use a scanner that sends out a laser and bounces off the surface before coming back to the machine at one million times per second with incredible accuracy. Alongside photogrammetry and drone footage, this allows for superb photorealistic textures for things like virtual reality. Through this, a lot of our sites are museums in and of themselves!

The aim is not to replace the originals, but to enhance your experience of them. Being surrounded by people excited to share their technical knowledge at a bustling hub home to specialist labs helps us look after our heritage for future generations.

What would five-year-old you think of your job today?

Five-year-old me would be so obsessed with the work I’m doing today. It’s always changing, there’s always something new to learn and I get to crawl around in really cool places across Scotland like Maeshowe, which is a chambered tomb in Orkney, and Skara Brae, a 5,000 year old village on the same island.

While at these world heritage sites, I’m down on my hands and knees crawling along corridors to access all the nooks and crannies for digital mapping. Some of the walls were even covered in Viking graffiti!

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The thing I love most about my role is taking aspects from other industries like gaming and photography and seeing how they apply to the heritage sector. For example, I work with stonemasons to 3D print templates they can use rather than working from 2D drawings – it’s really rewarding.

I also love being able to see how history connects us to the past and to the people around us and using that to tell new stories about old things.

What has been the most memorable moment in your role to date?

There have been so many memorable moments in my role, including working to digitally reconstruct Caerlaverock Castle’s Islamic Glass – a prime example of how we can help others enjoy our heritage by making it accessible.

But what I love most is the people I work with and the places I get to see. There’s lots of cool tech I get to play with and interact with at the Engine Shed, but really, it’s the people and the places that make it important.

The role

A career in digital innovation at HES provides incredible opportunities within 3D laser scanning, surveying and 3D digital documentation of sites and objects. As part of HES’ Heritage Science team, Digital Innovators will capture 3D datasets and develop outreach and visualisation to be shared with professionals and visitors alike.

The Engine Shed

The Engine Shed is Historic Environment Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre. It is a hub of digital innovation and heritage science, and home to specialist labs. The Engine Shed hosts events and training and shares technical knowledge to support Scotland’s skills needs. Find out what’s on in the coming months.

Learn about digital innovation at the Engine Shed