New scanning technology CultLab3D: how to digitise museum objects on a conveyor belt


The museum is being revolutionised. In just a few minutes, the scanner CultLab3D is able to capture a 3D image of cultural objects from museum collections, providing the basis for the creation of realistic digital models. Whereas previous 3D imaging and reproduction technologies for museum artefacts have been expensive and, above all, time consuming, the new, approx. seven-metre-long digitisation device CultLab3D offers an optimised and economical solution. It was developed by Fraunhofer IGD together with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt. The project was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs.

According to Günther Schauerte, vice-president of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz: 'Digitisation in museums is much more complicated than at a library or archive because of the three-dimensionality of the objects. Yet we have the same end goal as they do: to aid research, and to make our cultural heritage more widely accessible to the public in a new way. For our day-to-day work at the museum, this new technology also means that the planning and preparation of research projects and conservation and restoration work can be improved, and we can learn more about the original form of the objects, many of which are damaged or have only survived in fragments. And, on top of all this, their materiality can be more clearly determined.'

'CultLab3D aims to automate the process of digitising cultural artefacts with state-of-the-art scanning and lighting technologies,' explains Pedro Santos from Fraunhofer IGD. The first of its kind, the CultLab3D scanning device comprises a conveyor belt that moves the objects through the ARC, a special scanning arc using photogrammetric technology to capture the object from all sides in just a few minutes. A second scanner mounted on a robotic arm then fills in any occluded areas. More than 6,000 images are recorded in the process. In a final step these are used to create a virtual model of the object, which even reproduces its surface structure and colouring as well as its optical material properties. With a resolution of micrometres, the digital model meets the highest standards in quality.

CultLab3D will be in Berlin (Kulturforum) until 7 November 2014 to test the procedure with the digitisation of statues from the Antikensammlung, cuneiform tablets from the Vorderasiatisches Museum, object art from the collections of the Kunstbibliothek, wind instruments from the ethnological music collection at the Ethnologisches Museum, objects from the Ägyptisches Museum and the Gipsformerei (replica workshop) as well as smaller objects such as coins from the Münzkabinett.

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