Open Data Has Many Forms (part 3): 3D Models

Image Turner Contemporary, installation view

Turner Contemporary, installation view

As previously discussed in part 1, digitised museum artefacts in the form of 3D models of museum artefacts can be  considered ‘open data’ when they are made available online through museum websites and downloadable apps.  Many world-renowned museums already make this possible, but smaller museums can similarly benefit from digitising their collections and presenting their interactive, 3D artefacts online.  In fact, when it comes to increasing smaller museums’ profiles, this type of open data is their best bet for allowing a global audience to become familiar with their purpose and access their collections.

While the process of creating 3D models of museum artefacts may seem daunting, advances in technology have paved the way for more attainable methods that do not require expensive equipment, extensive technical backgrounds, or months of labour.  Recently, the company Autodesk, known for their suite of 3D design software, developed 123D Catch, which allows users to create accurate 3D models from photographs .  Since it’s beta version, they have made great strides in updating their software to accommodate those with no prior background in 3D modelling, making it even easier to create 3D models quickly and accurately.  Just two short years ago when I was using 123D Catch to create 3D models of cultural heritage artefacts, I remember it took several attempts of capturing an artefact before arriving to a suitable 3D model.  It also required taking photos and testing the results in several environments, including indoors and outdoors.  However, in the past couple of months, a colleague used the same software to create 3D models of her sculptures.  She was able to create acceptable 3D models after only two tries, both indoors.  This is just an example of how software is constantly being modified to give the user an optimal experience.

Therefore, museum personnel can be confident that current staff can be utilised to assist with creating 3D models of their artefacts for use on websites and downloadable apps.  This is just one way museums can make their collections open and interactive to a global audience.

Read the previous post: Open Data Has Many Forms (part 1): Ownership of Data

Read the previous post: Open Data Has Many Forms (part 2): Positive Effects

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Open Data Has Many Forms (part 1): Ownership of Data

While Culture Kent aims to make cultural event data open online, enabling free access to dates, times, and locations of events, open data is not just restricted to this type of information. Museums and galleries similarly make their works of art and collections available to people around the world through their websites. Artworks and cultural objects have been globally accessible since the advent of the website, but they usually were in the form of images or videos.

Recent advancements in technology have led to the creation of 3D models of museum objects for research and preservation purposes. This led to the unique opportunity of potentially broadening a museum’s audience by adding 3D models to museums’ websites and making them accessible at any time of the day. Internationally-known museums such as the British

Image The-British-Museum-Website-3D-models

Screenshot of the British Museum’s 3D models

Museum and the Smithsonian have made 3D models of their collections available online. Additionally, there are websites dedicated to bringing together collections from different institutions, notably Europeana and Google Cultural Institute. These museums allow users to interact with the 3D models of cultural artefacts using a mouse to rotate, move, and zoom in and out of objects. Never before has one been allowed such a personalised and in depth look into rare and important museum objects.

 In the case of the British Museum and its utilisation of Sketchfab, users have the chance to select their favourite object and create their own, personalised museum, or even print out 3D copies of objects. By making their collections open, museums are allowing website visitors to have a sense of ownership over certain objects. This leads to visitors revisiting museum websites, and potentially even visiting the actual museums, because they not only trust the information made available online by museum personnel, they also made personal connections to a museum.

If cultural event personnel also make their event data available to anyone to re-share on their own websites to a new and broad audience, it can have comparable effects. Those sharing the data must trust the information they are sharing is up-to-date, which is reflected in users returning to their website for further event information. As a result, organisations and owners of event data will continue to share upcoming data with their audiences.  The importance of making cultural event data open has further effects, which will be discussed in Part 2 of this blog post.