The Sketchfab Masters are a group of super passionate and active community members. They are helping us run community activities, write tutorials and help out community members with support and feedback.
Today, meet Abby Crawford, one of our Masters who has an exciting career in cultural heritage photogrammetry.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Abby Crawford and I’m a 3D scanner based in Santa Cruz, California. My background is in Classics and Roman Archaeology, which led me to begin doing freelance work in artifact illustration and 3D (my company is Archaeological Graphics). Having observed colleagues making 3D models of excavation trenches for several years, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the opportunities that 3D modeling artifacts would present for recording and public outreach. As I mentioned in a previous blog post for the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, museums typically have vast collections of objects and artifacts that, for various reasons, may rarely or never end up on display. Likewise, archaeological excavations tend to keep artifacts, many of which might not be considered “museum quality”, in vast storerooms for study and conservation. In the case of both museums and excavations, access to objects in their collections tends to be restricted to people who can physically visit and/or gain permission to the museum or archaeological storerooms. What I find so enticing about photogrammetry (and Sketchfab!) is that it is the great equalizer – you could be anywhere in the world and as long as you have access to the internet you can explore the wonders of the British Museum or examine pottery sherds unearthed in Nemea, Greece.
What is your expertise?
My expertise is in photogrammetry. Roughly two years ago I taught myself how to capture and process 3D scans using Agisoft PhotoScan. Since then I have been improving and working on learning more skills that will result in higher quality models. In addition to scans that I have done for my own entertainment and practice, I have an ongoing project digitizing art and artifacts from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) in Santa Cruz, California.
What began as an experiment digitizing garments from the 18th to 20th centuries has evolved into an effort to capture all aspects of Santa Cruz life, from late 19th century souvenirs to modern art.
In addition to my work at the MAH, I have also digitized artifacts from the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History in Pacific Grove, California. The museum has three baskets that are excellent and rare examples of local Native American basketry. Since they were going to be rotated off display and back to the storerooms, the museum was interested in having versions of the baskets be made available to the public. Sketchfab was the perfect platform for that.
I’ve also assisted organizations by processing photosets. Above is the Jaguar Paw Temple, which is part of the El Mirador settlement in Guatemala. Sam Cossman (CEO of Qwake) and the Global Heritage Fund went to examine the site and returned with a photoset for me to process. Most recently I, along with Bart and fellow Sketchfab Masters Thomas Flynn and Néstor F. Marqués, worked on some photosets for the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands.
How do you use Sketchfab?
I was first drawn to Sketchfab because of the ease with which models could be uploaded and shared. Since I started on the site in 2014 I have been impressed and delighted with the improvements that the Sketchfab team has made on the site (Longer model descriptions! Annotations! Helpful forum! Downloads! PBR! Improved search functionality! The list goes on and on!). Initially I used the site for putting up my own models that I made while learning how to model, but now I primarily use it to upload museum models, discover new artists, and learn about material culture around the world. Having been an educator off and on over the years, I am excited by the didactic opportunities that 3D content presents. A class full of Latin students, for example, is bound to find a 3D model of the Roman Colosseum more engaging and provocative than a small photograph in a textbook.
One of my favorite parts of Sketchfab is that they extend free business accounts to cultural institutions. Funding for heritage groups is typically stretched thin, so by removing the cost barrier, Sketchfab is enabling museums to share their collections online in 3D, thereby encouraging heritage appreciation and education. Furthermore, speaking as a freelancer, offering to set up a free Sketchfab account is a great selling point for organizations who are unsure how to share their 3D content.
What will you be working on for the Sketchfab Masters?
My primary project at the moment is developing, editing, and coordinating, along with Néstor F. Marques, the Around the World in 80 Models blog series. The series features a different 3D scanned model or two every week, accompanied by insights from the artists about the subject of the model and what went into creating the model. We’re following an itinerary around the world (as the name suggests!) and have a lot of really excellent contributors.
Additionally I am the moderator for the Cultural Heritage group on the forum. The group addresses 3D scanning questions of particular significance to those who digitize heritage (e.g., how do you scan shiny objects without spraying them with chemicals that might damage them?) and generally attempts to create a sense of community for those working in the field.