SketchUp can be used to produce and represent impressive 3D models of past and present structures, landscapes and environments. It can be useful for a number of drawing applications such as interior and architectural design, civil and mechanical engineering, digital humanities projects that recreate and interpret historical spaces and video game design.
It is a proprietary application that has a free version, SketchUp Make, and a paid version SketchUp Pro, which can both be downloaded at the SketchUp portal. The application small, and is thus easy and quick to install, as are the native 3DM files. You can produce many models without worrying about hard drive consumption. Until 2012, SketchUp was a Google application, much like GoogleEarth. It is now owned by TrimbleNation, a mapping, surveying, and navigation equipment company. It is very compatible with Google products, and can for example, be exported as a .kml which can then be uploaded into GoogleEarth.
The interoperability of the application with other digital humanities tools, such as Google Earth, and the ease of supplementing the model with primary sources and documentation, along with the flexibility of the application's comprehensive object libraries as well as the ease of use are the primary advantages of SketchUp for digital humanities work. One thing I was struck by in visiting the RomeLab's Funerary Spectacle Project was the way in which the knowledge presentation and interpretation were markedly different and more engaging than reading a paper. SketchUp's limitations for digital humanities are primarily that one needs to be sure that the research questions are suited to this mode of knowledge production.
SketchUp's website offers useful video tutorials familiarizing a user with the program's basic tools on the program’s website. There is also an Extension Warehouse, which features third-party developed plugins that address many issues that different users with different goals have encountered with the program. The DH 101: Intro to Digital Humanities course website from the UCLA Center for the Digital Humanities offers a virtual lesson on “Modeling Virtual Space,”which includes readings.
This is the DH Blog of Britt Paris, a 2nd-year IS PhD student at UCLA.