As an architect, I have been involved/consulted on historic preservation proyects. Most of them never materialized, even after spending a lot of time/money between interested parties (government, institutions, communities). It´s Not that it was a waste of time, but after seeing what some communities are doing with almost no official support/money and just driven by their passion, it´s pretty much clear that it can be done in another way.
Let me show you an example: a group of architecture students from Universidad de Talca, in the south of Chile, decided to spend their summer working with a community in Lebu, an old city that was very active at the beginning of the last century thanks to coal mines nearby. Beautiful wooden buildings were erected during the bonanza, but once the coal mines started to shut down, the city lost its economic base and entered into recession until today. All of this beautiful buildings were endangered because of lack of maintenance, and as of today some of them have even been demolished.
So, these students decided to teach the community how to use Google SketchUp as a way to help them preserve their historic buildings. Being a free tool, all they had to go was to get a space and some computers. The local authorities helped them by providing a space for the workshops, and lots of people got interested on this program. They gathered old plans from the city hall and some historic archives, and each one of the 24 assistants to the workshop started to learn how to model in 3D using one of these historic buildings as a case study.
In two weeks everyone learned how to use Google SketchUp, and submitted 24 detailed models of their historic buildings to Google 3D Warehouse. As of now, 20 of these buildings made it to the 3D layer on Google Earth.
No experts panel, no expensive funding, no pricey software… just the motivation of a group of architecture students and the local community to preserve their historic buildings.