The central practical mission of the project is to digitize the material of the Bridges collection to make it accessible to the public and students alike.
Underpinning these practical aims are a number of research questions pertaining to the way digital media impacts people’s understanding of and interaction with material culture. In particular, the function of the object, whether the object might be considered art or artefact, whether the context of the object could be ascertained, and whether the entangled life of the object could be read.
This was not the first project to work to bring the collection into the third dimension online. Catherine Cruickshank of MUSA pioneered this project by using a portable NextEngine 3D laser scanner provided by the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews. This was an experimental project in which ten objects of the collection were scanned and uploaded onto WEbGL by the Open Virtual Worlds team and are available to view on her website. While this was a highly successful project which provides a lovely image of the objects scanned, the process was time consuming and the eventual file was overly large and difficult to open on most computers.
Therefore, it was the aim of this project to find an alternate means of scanning, which was efficient, easy to use and download, and, preferably, open source.
The Scanning Project
The above criteria led us to use a range of accessible forms of photogrammetry, using programmes including Autodesk Remake and Agisoft. However, we found that to ensure the longevity of the models produced it was better to transfer the models from these programmes to the sharing platform Sketchfab.
The steps of photogrammetry are simple: begin by placing an artefact on a turn-table, taking forty to fifty picture of it, rotating the object slightly after each photo. The aim while taking these initial pictures was to capture as many different angles of the object as possible with multiple redundancies so that the software would match corresponding features in each shot. The result was that the photogrammetry software stitched together a 3D image as soon as the pictures were plugged into the software. Depending on how many images and their resolution, as well as the power of the computer, it can take up to 20 minutes for models to be produced. These models were then uploaded onto our Sketchfab site and are available to see here.
If you would like to know more, please feel free to download a copy of our brief guide to creating 3D models.