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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

The American masthead
1040 Abroad

3D Scans Bring History to Life

By News Team
Published on May 5, 2021

Apollo 11 Columbia command module The Apollo 11 Columbia command module PHOTO: SKETCHFAB.COM

The Smithsonian Institution, the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life, the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, Scotland are among the institutions that have created 3D models and 360° virtual tours of many important historic artefacts.

The scans can be viewed and downloaded for free from Sketchfab.com, the world’s largest platform for shared 3D content.

They began creating the 3D scans last year in a project with organizations worldwide, to share 3D scans of historic artefacts.

The 3D scans include the Apollo 11 Columbia command module and Abraham Lincoln’s life mask from the Smithsonian Institution, a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull from the Digital Atlas of Ancient Life, and a fourth-century BC sculpture from the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The Scottish Maritime Museum has included scans of the only surviving Scottish-built ‘puffer’, MV Spartan, the 1898-built SY Carola and the 1898 RNLB Jane Anne, a rare surviving example of a double-ended, self-righting lifeboat, which is of importance to the museum’s local community of Irvine.

There are also scans of a Cat’s Head carving from the Cutty Sark, a steam hammer built by RG Ross & Sons for the 1907 opening of the Clyde Port Authority, and the stern of SS Rifle.

Each scan can be manipulated and downloaded for free.

Marta Pilarska, 3D Digitization Project Manager at the Maritime Museum, told Classic Boat the models would create an entirely new relationship with members of the public.

“All of a sudden ... we have this digital output that can serve not only as a condition-monitoring tool but is also visually appealing,” she explained.

“We can use it to engage with the public and allow online visitors to explore our collection in a new way. One of the benefits of this – particularly if you’re talking about vessels such as MV Spartan and SY Carola – is that while visiting the Museum in Irvine one can view the vessels from the outside, but access to interiors is restricted.

“Immersive virtual tours, based on 360-degree imaging, enabled us to make those areas accessible.”

Sketchfab links:

Smithsonian Institution's content
Cultural Heritage Lead at Sketchfab Thomas Flynn's content
Scottish Maritime Museum's content
Digital Atlas of Ancient Life's content
Minneapolis Institute of Art's content

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