3D digitization and cultural heritage

3D digitisation…why?

When discussing 3D digitization, we describe the process of scanning objects in three dimensions. In this way, we study a real-world object and collect all the data we need to digitally reconstruct its shape and appearance. It is a technology widely used in today’s everyday life. Why has it become so popular?

To access freely and democratize culture

Cultural heritage is in the spotlight in the form of shared stories, museum collections of all shapes and sizes that are becoming available, and reaching out to a European and global audience for learning, teaching and construction purposes, as presented in detail in this article. We are thus allowed to freely explore curated archives on topics such as fashion, art, history, music or even play and do experiments.

To preserve and protect

Moreover, we can create databases to protect our cultural heritage from damage due to armed conflicts, natural disasters, or merely neglect, through 3D digitization. The 2023 Europeana conference under the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU focused on ‘Accelerating 3D in the common European data space for cultural heritage: Why 3D matters.’

To trigger creativity

We may use this technology to get inspired by artifacts, design 3D printing projects reproducing everything, from colors to objects, with 100% accuracy, and then put them in virtual reality, while users will be able to actively interact directly with them, without limitation. Educational programmes, interactive exhibition activities, and digital tours will make the content accessible to all, including persons with mobility impairment.

3D History and Future

The History

Europeana is providing a thorough review of the history of digitization as well as its future. Quite interestingly, it dates back to ancient times. From Ancient Greek mathematician Euclid to the Renaissance, scientists and artists delve into the notion of three dimensions, while some of the 19th and 20th century fields of art, such as photography and filmmaking, experiment with ‘stereotypes’ and stereoscopes that produce a 3D illusion. A collection of more than 300 stereoscope cards is available for us to explore!

The Future

A three-dimensional world seems to have emerged in the 21st century, marking the dawn of a new age. Immersive technologies, including Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR) applications, are widely spread and put forward a model of blended reality, whereby virtual content and the physical environment intertwine naturally.

Bearing these advancements in mind, the European Commission highlighted the importance of Digital Cultural Heritage by including the development of guidelines on 3D cultural heritage assets, as part of the “Shaping Europe ‘s Digital Future” campaign.

Europeana content and Pedagogical perspectives

In this framework, Europeana offers a rich variety of 4,641 3D objects featuring monuments, buildings, and artefacts, while major museums such as the Louvre and the British Museum offer 3D tours and 3D recreations of their most popular exhibits, some of which are available on the sketchfab platform. The Smithsonian’s 3D content covers a wide array of topics, while the Harvard Library offers a thorough review of Teaching and Learning with 3D.

On another note, the educational initiative “Teaching with Europeana”, aiming to encourage teachers to share their experience in incorporating Europeana resources in their classrooms, has already published Learning Scenarios empowering students through the use of 3D models, as well as Stories of Implementation (SOIs) about Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality.

Last but not least, other projects such as the “Built with Bits – an educational challenge and tools” engaged educators in collaborative learning experiences and digital technologies with the values of accessibility, inclusivity and sustainability that are at the heart of the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus movement, and resulted in creating virtual spaces with Mozilla hubs and immersive spaces, using cultural heritage that inspired and sparked our students’ imagination.

A brave new world has just opened its gates and urges all of us to seize its potential!

CC BY 4.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Ośrodek “Brama Grodzka – Teatr NN”.

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