Teaching Museums How to Produce 3D Content

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On May 2nd 2017, I hopped aboard the 9.15 from Paddington Station in London to make the short journey to the city of Reading. I had been invited by Adam Koszary, Project Manager at The Museum of English Rural Life, to pay a visit to the museum and introduce staff to the concept of 3D for cultural heritage as well as train a small group in the art of photogrammetry (producing 3D content from digital images).

View the results at the bottom of the post!

Unlike other communities on Sketchfab – i.e. video game makers, 3D artists, VR enthusiasts –  the majority of staff from the cultural heritage sector (archivists, archaeologists, librarians, curators etc.) do not have a backgound in 3D. Sometimes they might not even have a notion of how 3D might be relevant to their work.

Despite the growing number of musuems publishing 3D on Sketchfab (we host 500+ museums and non-profits to date) it is still fairly rare, especially for smaller insititutions, for museums to have an in-house 3D production team.

One of my tasks as Cultural Heritage Lead, then, is to share my experience of creating 3D and excite people about the potential of the medium. More specifically, I want to help bridge the skills gap of 3D digitisation that exists within many museums of all sizes by providing introductory workshops in making 3D via photogrmmetry. “Teach a man to create 3D fish” and all that…

In the day workshop at MERL, we covered basic 3D concepts like verts, faces, meshes and textures followed by a photography session. We then moved on to processing images into 3D using photogrammetry software and finally uploading to Skecthfab, setting up for VR and sharing online.

Fortunately for me, the participants at this workshop were fast learners and picked up the rudiments of photogrammetry very quickly as you can see from the playlist below – remember these models were made by people who had no previous experience making 3D!

As I see it, the field of 3D for cultural heritage is wide open for creative individuals to invent new experiences in 3D as the ability to create and share 3D content becomes affordable and easy to use. What will you create?

Sketchfab offers free Business accounts to museums and cultural organisations. If you are interested publishing 3D on Sketchfab or learning how to make 3D for your museum please drop us a message on museums@sketchfab.com.

About the author

Thomas Flynn

Cultural Heritage Lead at Sketchfab.
Co-founder of museuminabox.org

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  • Wayne J. "Mike" Michaels says:

    Awesome job, Tom. Nice job. I’m working with some folks here in the U.S. around the Great Lakes to use photogrammetry to document shipwrecks. Some initial work has already been posted on Sketchfab … but, so far limited actual marine archaeology being accomplished on the finished models. I’m going to forward your link to the local museums here as I don’t know if they are aware of the technology.

    Thanks for sharing this article with the community.

    • Thanks for your comment Wayne, I’m glad you found the article interesting. As you say, 3D is becoming more an more useful for visualisation but there are relatively few examples of how 3D contributes to academic work. Lots of studies going on regarding this though!

  • Yvana Alencastro says:

    Hi Thomas. I was really happy when I knew about your work. Actualy, I’m studing low cost 3d digitization for small museums in Brazil. I’d like know better your projects. Do have some other channel where could we talking about?



  • Alex Nan says:

    I’m wondering, is there a video on this workshop ? I would surely love to see one, especially the basics in 3D concept 💪🍀

    • Hey Alex, no video I am afraid. We started by looking at common terms – vertex, edge, face, polygon – and worked on through the concept of mesh and a texture before getting into the practicalities of photogrammetry.

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