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Preserving Our Past in 3D: How Scanning is Revolutionising Heritage Documentation

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An Exploration Into Digital Conservation

3D scanning has been used extensively to help with historical conservation and artefact archiving. It has allowed museums and other organisations to create exquisitely detailed digital models of artefacts and structures, that go on to be studied and aid conservation of them in a number of ways as well as share them across the globe.

Case Study: The British Museum and Digital Archiving

The British Museum used 3D scanning to create digital likenesses of ancient Greek statues. These were then 3D printed to create replicas which then went on display for the public. This allowed the museum to share the historical objects with a wider audience while still protecting the originals. The replicas were 3D printed via selective laser sintering (SLS), which fuses together powered plastic or metal, to create a real physical model. The museum used a combination of laser scanning and structured light scanning to create the 3D data, which was used to print from. The replicas were created with a high level of accuracy so details such as facial expressions and clothing patterns were accurately reproduced.

The National Trust’s Approach to Heritage Site Restoration

The National Trust used 3D scanning to create detailed digital data of a medieval castle in Wales. The data was captured using a combination of laser scanning and photogrammetry. The data went on to be used to make records the castle’s condition and to plan for its future restoration. The 3D models provided data of the castle’s features, including the condition of its walls, the location and extent of structural cracks and damage, and the layout of its interior. The information was used to develop a conservation plan which included recommendations to help the castle stay standing for years to come.

3D Scanning at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York used 3D scanning to create digital models of Egyptian artefacts and sarcophagi already housed within the museum. They used a combination of laser scanning and structured light scanning to create the 3D data to study the artefacts in greater detail as well as creating replicas for educational purposes. The replicas were 3D printed, and then used in exhibitions and educational programmes to aid visitors’ understanding the cultural significance of these historical items. The scan data helped the museum to examine the artefacts in a high level of detail and spot things that were not previously noticed, such as inscriptions and decorative patterns.

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