Museum Objects in the Age of Digital 3D Reproduction

Shaun Foster, USA

A combination of computer vision technologies and photogrammetry are transforming the ability to create rapid, low cost 3D digital representations of physical objects. These 3D reproductions can provide access to museum objects both online and in exhibitions in a fashion that allows researchers and visitors to experience the objects in an interactive way that transcends traditional two-dimensional facsimiles. This paper discusses 3D visualizations of museum objects at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the current and future implications for museums within emerging 3D technology.

At the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) researchers from the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences and the School of Interactive Games & Media are working with real time 3D technologies in collaboration with the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, a rare books library documenting the history and practice of graphic communication technologies. Researchers created a 3D visualization of Fortunato Depero’s Depero Futurista (1927), one of the most important exemplars of the Italian Futurist Movement. It has been nicknamed the “Bolt Book” because the book is actually held together by two large metal bolts, creating an object that is as much a piece of art as it is a book. Thus, the physical form of this book is very important and a 3D visualization was needed to sufficiently capture this book as a physical object (please see the 3D turntable posted on YouTube:

This paper will discuss the technology behind the initial 3D visualization of the “Bolt Book” and how researchers at RIT are using this example to explore how 3D reproductions of museum objects can reproduce and even augment the experience of interacting with these objects, whether in an online environment or in a traditional exhibition mediated through touch technology on mobile devices such as the iPad or Microsoft Surface. We will also share our suggestions regarding what elements and features should be integrated into the visualization and what characteristics of the physical form are important to transform to the digital world. Finally, beyond what is currently possible and practical, given the projected pace of technologies there are many other new technologies that will add more interactivity and sense of the 3D object. We will use our research to forecast the future of museum objects and 3D technology.