Los Banales - Sketchfab

Cultural Heritage Spotlight: Los Bañales Museo Virtual, the "making-of"

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Our Cultural institutions Page highlights our ongoing support of museums and cultural institutions with free accounts and access to tools. In Cultural Heritage Spotlight, we’ll explore museums and cultural institutions who are using 3D technology to bring new life to their collections. Today’s blog post features Los Bañales – Museo Virtual‘s amazing work in the North of Spain. 

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Los Bañales is the name of an archaeological site in the North of Spain. It is located just between Zaragoza and Pamplona. It was inhabited from the late Iron Age until the 8th century AD but it flourished during the Roman era, especially between the 1st century BC and the 2nd century AD. At this time, an important city whose Roman name could be Tarraca (still not evidenced in situ), prospered thanks to rich agricultural hinterland and intense trade activity between Caesar Augusta (now Zaragoza) and Pompelo (now Pamplona), on the Roman Via that linked the Ebro Valley to the Gulf of Biscay and the Gallias across the Pyrenees.

Research and excavation have been done here in the 20th Century (1940’s and 1970’s), but the main progress has been happening over the last years. A full investigation plan has been carried out, driven by the Fundación Uncastillo and directed by Dr. Javier Andreu, one of the most recognized specialists on Roman Hispania.

At this stage of the investigation, the priority is to improve the communication and diffusion of the extraordinarily rich –but quite unknown- Heritage that lies there. As such, the team in charge of the investigation considers essential to apply the newest Information and Communications Technologies (ICT’s) to get the widest impact, both locally (“Heritage socialisation”) and worldwide (web, social networks, academic community, mass media, etc.). Investigation, documentation and diffusion have been done using diverse technologies (geo-radar, physical analysis, palynologic tests, 3D virtual recreation, etc.), always fighting like Don Quixote against the mills of crisis budget cutbacks…

Due to the discontinuous –and somehow erratic- investigations, important findings are mostly dispersed and inaccessible to be visited. Many of them are stored in the back-drop of Museums and in industrial units or dark warehouses, where nobody will ever be able to see them. The profit of a Virtual Museum thus becomes obvious: we try to make a virtual exhibition of all those artefacts that are related to Los Bañales and to spread their images so that everyone can see them “as if it was here”.

The role of Sketchfab is essential: the cultural policy of this site is simply laudable. I will never be able to thank you enough for being such excellent hosts for our work! Once created the museum’s profile, we are now filling it with a background that will include sculptures, monuments, epigraphies, ceramics and daily stuffs… The possibilities provided are wide and we are willing to learn and apply them all.

The process has not been easy at all. The fully-detailed photogrammetric surveys were processed with the new software Capturing Reality (fast, powerful and accurate, though little bit “Martian” interface). In order to get light models that can be easily displayed on any computer, we had to correct, remesh, simplify and texture-bake them using the blessed Blender –someone should give them a prize, too! Then, uploading the model with its textures (colour, normal maps, occlusion, etc.) and building the text contents (descriptions and annotations) has probably been more laborious than difficult, thanks to the kind and friendly Sketchfab interface for model settings.

The hardest part was undoubtedly the photographic work. We had to scan pieces and monuments spread all over the region, trusted by the widest assortment of subjects (museums, town councils, archaeologists, individuals) and placed at the most bizarre places in sometimes “picturesque” conditions. Optimistic as we are, we took this all as an opportunity to learn… and now that’s been learning! Whenever you give us the courtesy to visit any of our models (don’t forget to follow us, like and share our models, please!), you will be able to value the effort we paid for it – effort that we can now show, expecting to get your smile.

Thanks for sharing, Pablo!

If you are part of a cultural institution, get in touch with us at museums@sketchfab.com to set up your free business account.

 

About the author

Nicolas Guinebretière

Cultural heritage enthusiast


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  • Thank you very much, Nico, for this space, and thanks again to all the Sketchfab team for the support. Only 10 years ago, this would have seemed to me science-fiction!
    I heard recently from a teacher that Sketchfab has become “the youtube for the 3D models”. Thanks again and, please, keep the good work!

  • Some more information: photos on the capturing process can be seen at this “virtual exhibition”, thank to the new and amusing Sketchfab tool “Instamuseum”: https://skfb.ly/OY7Z
    Specially, see photo nº 12, probably the most difficult scan I have ever done. The resulting model has not yet been published, but I can say we got that Roman relief under the sink. Lots of post-processing needed! :-O

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