Photogrammetry for 3D textiles capture - lessons learnt through Beyond Digitisation
We launched Beyond Digitisation in late 2020. The project aimed to 3D model textile collections and then experiment with commercial sales of the assets. Bodmin Keep, Penlee House Gallery & Museum, and the Royal Cornwall Museum offered textile collections for inclusion. We partnered with Purpose 3D, a Falmouth University Launchpad start-up, to capture and render the models.
We’re interested in innovating in application, process and collaboration to achieve our aim of creating positive social change with museums. Purpose 3D sell high-quality 3D models to creative industries and also offer the skills to capture and render 3D models of clothing. This business model excited us. Collaborating would mean we could explore new income generation opportunities for Cornish museums. The potential for our partners’ collections to feature in video games, or as design inspiration was tantalising.
The collections selected by our partners varied greatly.
Bodmin Keep: military uniforms, mostly jackets and hats, demonstrating the historical variety of their collection.
Royal Cornwall Museum: various collections including Edith Williams’ trousseau, a bridal gift, from the late 19th century, a particularly fragile and vulnerable collection.
Penlee House Gallery & Museum: the Crysede collection, hand-block printed silk and linen garments from the 1920s and 30s.
You can explore the full collection of captured items on Sketchfab here.
We’ve learnt a lot about multi-partner tech projects, especially culture-start up partnerships. We spent the first few months of the project getting to know each other, and understanding the drivers behind our organisational ambitions. We’ve also learnt about the 3D capture process, how we might use the models, and what the barriers might be for museums on projects like this. Our headlines are:
1. Have conversations about what drives your organisation early in the project.
We all wanted to work together but each had different reasons for doing so. For the first few weeks, the lack of agreed communication channels meant we didn’t understand each other as well as we could have.
2. Understanding the capture process helps to define the workload.
Naturally, some objects were harder to capture and render to high quality than others. We found lace and shiny features, such as buttons and military epaulettes, particularly difficult.
3. Make sure all your partners have the right tech
Some of our museums’ computers couldn’t open .obj files. We didn’t expect this and eventually overcame it, but ideally, we would have invested in fit for purpose tech where it was needed.
4. Working with digital artists on the capture and render reaps rewards
The compliments we have had on the 3D models is hugely gratifying. The investment we made in digital artists’ skills, through Purpose 3D, has meant we have very high-quality assets available to use.
5. Intimidating technology and budgets can get in the way of brainstorming
The seemingly never-ending options for using 3D and the prices associated overwhelmed some of our partners. By following the principles of user-centred design, and considering the collections’ stories, we were able to visualize innovative ways to use the assets which supported the museums’ ambitions and complemented their current planning.
We’re very excited about the possibilities of using the 3D models in the future for audience engagement activities. We’re also considering virtual exhibitions and utilising photogrammetry for co-production work with communities. This pilot project has enabled us to understand the capture process much better, and visualize what it might be like to 3D model significant numbers of objects across Cornwall’s museums.
The commercial element will take a while to show conclusions, as Purpose 3D build their reach and customer base. We’ll continue to share reflections and results as this becomes clearer. We’re excited to share a series of films that capture the project process, and some of our initial conclusions from the work we’ve done together.
– Charlotte Morgan
Collaborative Programmes Manager