Transporting ourselves into the home of one of the most iconic American authors isn’t a feat we can do often, but it’s possible with The Mark Twain House & Museum. Residing in Hartford, Connecticut, this three-story, 25-room, 11,500-square-foot home was built in the late 1800s by Samuel Clemens, who goes by the pen name we all know and love, Mark Twain, and his wife, Olivia. In 1874, the couple and their then-only daughter, Livy, moved in, happily calling Hartford their home for almost 20 years, bringing into the world daughters Clara and Jean.
It was during his time in Hartford that Clemens wrote some of his most well-known works, including “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” in 1876, “Life on the Mississippi” in 1883, and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in 1884. A bastion for equality and attacking the institution of slavery, Clemens’ writings transport us brilliantly to one of the most tumultuous times of growth and change in American history.
We took some time with Tony Healy, President and Founder of Capture - Visual Marketing, the talented agency of 3D/VR creators, videographers, drone pilots and editors, who graciously shared his experience capturing this historic space in 3D.
Q: What inspired the 3D capture of the Mark Twain House?
It was actually Matterport’s 2017 Holiday Contest that inspired the 3D capture. The Mark Twain House (MTH) began as a challenge to my company's photographers to come up with a location to participate in a Matterport Holiday Contest. I was told that the MTH was all decked out for the holidays. I made a cold call to them and introduced their marketing team to the platform. They liked it so much, they wanted me to wait until the decorations were taken down so the home would reflect the year-round vibe. So, we missed the contest, but gained a great client, referrals and a long lasting relationship that has put us in the forefront of providing tours to the historic/cultural/museum market, throughout New England. It's become one of our strong suits.
A few years later and an updated Pro2 Tour along the way, the 3D tour continues to market for the MTH allowing them to tell the home's story and drive in-person visits. In fact, Capture - Visual Marketing won a "Sammy Award" (Samuel Clemens) from the MTH for helping to increase the on-site visits it receives. Both tours, Pro1 and Pro2, have garnered over 100,000 unique visitors.
In fact it provides so much more, as pointed out in this recent email from Pieter Roos, the Director at The Mark Twain House:
"Tony, thank you for all that you have done for us. The tour was a real centerpiece for us early in the quarantine and it continues to be very popular and heavily featured as you note. We have been able to use that popularity in any number of ways including visitation, grants, driving people to the shop, education, and so much more."
Q: What are the “must-sees” you want visitors to explore and why?
- Twain’s Desk (Third Floor Billiard Room) - From the small corner desk, Mark Twain worked on some of his most famous works, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court,” and “The Prince & The Pauper,” to name a few.
- Gas Line Attachment to Lamp (2nd Floor) - Samuel Clemens enjoyed reading (and smoking the occasional cigar) in bed, and ran a gas line from the gasolier in the ceiling to a lamp on his bedside table to provide additional light to read by.
- Diverted Flue Fireplace (1st Floor) - Seen from Drawing Room & Front Hall. The chimney flues are hidden behind the walls on either side of the window over the fireplace.
- Scottish Mantel (1st Floor) - The mantel in the Library was purchased by Samuel Clemens upon visiting Ayton Castle in Scotland in 1873. The mantel was then disassembled and shipped home to Hartford. Only one problem, the whole thing would not fit in this spot. If you are looking at the mantel, turn to your left and you will see the top portion is now above the doorway to the Dining Room.
- The rich woodwork and carvings throughout.
Q: What’s the one thing you want visitors to take away after exploring the Mark Twain House?
That we have the opportunity to create digital twins of historic sites throughout the world. Not only do we help these places tell their stories from afar, but we in essence digitally preserve these treasured spaces.
These tours provide much more than a virtual walk through. They provide ongoing marketing, education, inventory management, restoration & mitigation assets, photos for their social media and most importantly… they drive on-site visits.
Q: What was it like to capture the home of an author who is so deeply rooted in our culture?
I get goose bumps from all things historic. My great grandfather was a prominent local Mason, creating many very well-known sculptures throughout Hartford, CT. I am a Compatriot of the Sons of the American Revolution. In my family tree are the likes of John Locke the Philosopher, Ebenezer Locke who was said to have fired the “Shot Heard Round The World,” High Sheriffs of London, dukes, knights, a cardinal and names like the Plantagenets. It was exciting to know that this was not only historic, but very local and accessible.
Q: Did you run into any challenges scanning this three-story historic house?
- Dark Rooms = Throughout the home there were rooms with the equivalent of 1 candlelight. Our first scan with the Pro1, we hid & moved small LED’s around for every scan. A second trip, and new scan using the Pro 2, made the homes’ lighting feel more natural with only a limited need for lighting. In this case, using a lighting system that I helped develop with Litra®.
- Ample uninterrupted time to Scan - When we scanned, both times, we wanted good weather on a day that the home was not open to the public. Even on closed days, there is a lot of maintenance that has to go on so timing this was a challenge.
- Not being able to touch anything - It’s easy as you’re walking along setting up scan spots to just sit down or lean against anything, however that was not allowed and I had an escort to remind me.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
The most current and important item is that during the time of Covid shutdown, Mark Twain House has continued to use our Digital Twin to keep the lights on!
We’ve been told that the 3D Tour…
- Acts as an insurance inventory.
- Is like a coming attraction to a movie with the movie being actually being there.
- Can be updated with Mattertags and a highlight reel to tell multiple stories or showcase different items throughout the home to keep the message and story “fresh”.
- Provides Mattertags which can link to support and the MTH store.
- Is educational with MTH conducting virtual field trips.
With such a noted name as Mark Twain in our portfolio, we’ve enjoyed success in the historic vertical. It’s led to over 60 historic properties, including The House of 7 Gables, Old Newgate Prison (America’s First Federal Prison), 30 historic churches including a basilica and cathedral, multiple historic museums & houses, many ephemeral exhibits and has led to work within other industries