Categories
3D exhibition museum photogrammetry

New work: Photogrammetry for the new Medicine Galleries at the Science Museum!

The Science Museum recently released their Explore Museum Objects in 3D online resource and 20 new 3D models on Sketchfab to coincide with the opening of their new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries.

In 2018, the museum approached us about the idea of scanning a set of objects for the upcoming galleries and we gladly accepted. Using photogrammetry we made a number of the 3D models in the final set. So let’s talk a little about the project and the awesome objects we were tasked with scanning!

The new Medicine Galleries include three thousand objects and showcase some truly amazing medical items. They’re all about ‘exploring our relationship with medicine and health through more than 500 years of history’ and include the world’s first MRI scanner and Alexander Fleming’s penicillin mould!

The process

We’ve created over 20 commissions now, and many of them have included 3D digitisation as a service. This was a little different because the resulting models were to be viewed digitally (and not printed), but we still used the same photogrammetry techniques.

We worked closely with Digital Learning Producers Emilia McKenzie and Josh Blair, whittling down a list of possible objects from the Medicine collection based on their ‘scan-ability’. We looked at material, reflectivity, and size while Josh and Emilia came at it from strength of curriculum links.

Seeing images of the objects in advance really helps with that initial selection, but seeing an object in the flesh is even better, so it was useful to arrange a site visit at Blythe House to preview the objects. There are two major steps to making 3D models: Photogrammetric capture, and making the digital models.

Photogrammetric capture

We set our gear up in a corner of the stores and did image capture over two weeks, averaging about 3 objects per day. The chosen objects varied massively in size and complexity from a large wooden 18th century barber-surgeon’s chair, to a box of matches, to a cast iron baby-weighing scale.

It was great to get up close with the objects and be surrounded by so many other wondrous artefacts in the Blythe House stores. We love going behind the scenes at different museums, in fact it’s a large part of why we started the company in the first place, so visiting was a real treat for us!

Charlie capturing photos of the beautiful Leeches jar, fortunately it’s not so beautiful content has long since been removed!

Making the digital models

Having captured high-res images of all the artefacts we began the job of processing them into models using Agisoft’s Photoscan (now Metashape). A couple of the objects proved challenging owing to their complexity. Manufactured objects are usually more complicated then sculptural/hand-made things, so our models of sculptures tend to be quite forgiving as they’re one mass, whereas machine-made objects like the baby weighing scales or carbolic sprayer are not.

With their uniform metallic parts like nuts and bolts and pressed sheet metal failing to mesh well, areas of the models looked a bit “crunchy”. Accuracy was key for these objects as the detail helped explain their function.

To solve this we recreated the object topology and remodelled several of the objects using the exported meshes of the original scans, and the photos as additional reference. After remodelling the objects to a suitably detailed level we could then import those to Metashape again for retexturing. The result is a neat model that represented the original and load quickly online.

The remodelled steam sprayer which was later animated by artist Sophie Dixon

The new 3D models

We produced 13 models which you can see on the museum’s Sketchfab page. Our favourites include

The museum’s Sketchfab page. All the models are downloadable under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license.

Object-based learning

The Science Museum has developed tons of online classroom resources for teachers and educators as part of the project, using 3D models as the base. It’s a great way to introduce object-based learning into the classroom and to help fuel a student’s curiosity. The resources can be browsed through different fields including key stage, curriculum links, and subject.

Emilia and Josh also worked on providing useful supporting material as well such as scale (which is often overlooked with 3D models). There are also loads of discussion prompt questions like is it OK to exploit or harm animals to make humans better?

The Science Museum’s new learning resource site.

At Museum in a Box we’re obviously massive advocates for object-based learning! Mostly because objects are a great way to prompt questions, stimulate discussion and improve people’s critical thinking. What’s more, having a digital model or 3D print means you can move the object around and view it from all angles, something that’s just not possible with objects in a gallery setting.

Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries

We’re proud to have made a small contribution to the brand new Medicine: The Wellcome Galleries space at the Science Museum. It’s brilliant!

We were delighted to work on this digitisation project and play a part in growing the museum’s offering of digital resources. The Education team were great to work with and the outcome is a really well rounded set of resources that encapsulate the spirit of the new galleries perfectly!

We can provide 3D digitisation through our commissions so if you’re considering making a collection through Museum in a Box but don’t have the ability to do 3D in-house, do get in touch.

Categories
3D commission company news museum photogrammetry

New Commission: International Slavery Museum

Photo of the 3D prints and postcards that make up the collection
The Transatlantic Slavery and Its Contemporary Significance Collection

We’ve been busy working on many exciting commissions recently and plan to share a few more detailed insights into these over the coming weeks.

One such commission is with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, a collection we produced along with staff at the museum that explores transatlantic slavery, and its contemporary significance. 

The collection consists of two 3D models and seven postcards and encompasses a range of artefacts from the museum’s collection.  These include objects that would have been touched by African slaves, street signs connecting Liverpool to the slave trade, and contemporary art pieces.

Photo of lighting rig and sculpture being scanned
Our rig for doing 3D photogrammetric capture

After settling on an object list, Charlie travelled up to the museum to 3D scan the two objects that were to be 3D printed. These were the Olaudah Equiano sculpture – a brilliant sculpture of writer, abolitionist and a former enslaved African, Olaudah Equiano by sculptor Christy Symington, and a Bamana mask – a type of mask used in Bamana culture used in traditional initiation societies in order to pass into adulthood. We printed them out in some brilliant bright yellow PLA, and were glad that so much detail of the original, including the shape of Africa on Olaudah’s back, broken shackles, and an enslaved female figure from the Brookes slave ship diagram were all visible on the print!

A photograph of the 3D printed bust of Equiano

The audio in the collection incorporates narration from staff members including education demonstrators, curators, volunteers, and youth ambassadors. It’s great to hear such a variety of expert voices talk about the objects in such depth. Here’s a sample of one object in the collection, a ‘Talking Drum’, described by Yaz, one of the museum’s education demonstrators:

Drum, 20th Century, Akan, Ghana
‘The Talking Drum’

An important distinction the collection highlights is the range of material held at the museum. This includes not only original objects but contemporary artworks too such as the Olaudah Equiano sculpture and The Cockle Pickers’ Tea Service.

‘Made in 2007 to commemorate 200 years since Britain enacted a law to outlaw the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The artwork references the original African victims, whilst also remembering twenty-one Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay Lancashire in 2004. These people were contemporary slaves. A reminder that the slave trade is still alive in the twenty first century.’

Paul Scott’s ‘Cumbrian Blue(s), The Cockle Pickers’ Tea Service’ (2007)

We’re chuffed with how the set neatly encapsulate the museum’s broad collection, and that the box will be used to help increase awareness and understanding of the important stories it has to tell.

We can’t wait to hear how they get on with the box in the coming months!

Categories
brain museum packaging prototype

Charlie DoES Liverpool

Last week Charlie hopped on a train up to Liverpool to hang out with our tech lead Adrian, here’s an account of what he got up to:

DoES Liverpool

Having never been to Liverpool before I jumped at the chance to make the two or so hour train ride to visit Adrian who is based at DoES Liverpool, a maker space which he co-founded in 2011.

On arrival I was introduced to all of the friendly faces, claimed a desk and set my intro music to a piece by Frédéric Chopin (the space is rigged to play an audio file when you ‘tap-in’ in the morning). I was also introduced to the talking fridge, the gesture bin and the internet-connected coffee machine. Welcome to the wonderful world of DoES Liverpool!

The space is divided between the co-working space and the workshop which has a wealth of kit including two laser cutters (Gerald & Sophia) and several 3D printers. I arrived with a list of things I wanted to get done and so wasted no time with cracking on.

Cardboard Experiment

One experiment I had a chance to play with and develop was a cardboard Museum in a Box. I’d prepped a flimsy mock-up in London and was pretty chuffed with the outcome so decided to refine a neater version in the workshop at DoES. This was also a useful opportunity to try out a different internal configuration and a new way to access the tech inside the box.

Architecture

Being a bit of an architecture enthusiast, spending time in Liverpool was a dream because the buildings vividly tell the story of a busy port city, its development and importance at the time of its height in the British Empire. I’ve dreamed of an ‘architectural box’ for some time now and a tour around the docks provided the inspiration to start just that. Towns and cities across England are littered with great lessons and examples of great architecture but unless you can decode what you are looking at it’s hard to truly interpret and appreciate it. The author and illustrator Matthew Rice says it nicely:

‘Once you can speak any language, conversations can begin, but without it communications can only be brief and brutish. The same is the case with Architecture: an inability to describe the component parts of a building leaves one tongue-tied and unable to begin to discuss what is or is not exciting, dull or peculiar about it.’

Garstang Museum of Archaeology

Adrian and I managed to squeeze in a trip to the Garstang Museum, a museum named after Professor John Garstang, who founded the ‘Institute of Archaeology’ and associated museum in 1904.

Despite its modest size it’s packed with fascinating objects, most of which were excavated by Garstang in Egypt, the Sudan, and the Near East; the collection also contains almost twenty collections of glass-plate negatives relating to Garstang’s archaeological work in these areas. Several of the images have been enlarged and line the walls of the museum providing a fantastic insight into the world of archaeology in the early 20th century.

Something that struck me was the amazing collection of Shabti that are on display in one of the exhibition spaces. Shabti were funerary figures who accompanied the deceased to the after-life, left alongside them inside their tombs. The poorest people may not have had any but even those tombs of modest size would have contained at least one or two Shabti. Those on display in the museum clearly show the range of Shabti and their corresponding value because of the materials used (wood, stone and faience) and their size (from ~10mm up to ~30cm), it was great to see such a diverse representation of people come together within one display case.

If you’re in Liverpool and have a spare hour I can absolutely recommend heading to the Garstang but be sure to plan carefully as the museum only opens on between 10am-4pm every Wednesday.

Taking five after a long day of making and learning in Liverpool

Back at DoES I was really enjoying being able to work on an idea in one room and nip next door to quickly mock-up a prototype in the workshop so much so that I was still laser-cutting minutes before having to leave to catch a train back to London. I was able to work on and develop some fun ideas including an architecture box which I’ll share some more info on in due course. Thank you Liverpool!

That’s all for now. C

Categories
3D AR competition museum photogrammetry

Ramesses in a Ramesses #DesignByCapture

MyMiniFactory, Autodesk ReMake, and Autodesk® Fusion 360 recently hosted a competition aimed at demonstrating the potential of their platforms to integrate photogrammetry into the design process.

The competition asked entrants to capture and modify an object that they use for their ‘favourite hobby’. We considered adapting a piece of our photography kit used for photogrammetry but opted instead for a more playful approach and hacked a scan of Ramesses II, one of the largest sculptures in the British Museum:

Next we were required to customise it to best suit our needs, it may seem surprising but we have quite a few 3D prints hanging around our Bloomsbury HQ yet few cool places to store them. Cue light bulb moment, why not make a giant Ramesses and use him to store a bunch of smaller prints!

We identified six scans that we could place within niches inside the big Ramesses including a smaller Ramesses bust (Ramception) and then got to work using Fusion 360 to modify the original scan.

First we had to reduce the polycount in order to open and edit the sculpture in Fusion which was then swiftly sliced in half. A hinge was then created by extruding a circle into a cylinder and splitting it into five parts which were then alternately combined to the front and back bodies. We also modelled a simple pin to lock the two halves together completing the hinge that would enable the secret stash of models to be opened and closed.

Ramesses Fusion 360 development

The final steps involved scaling-down and reducing the polycount of the six smaller models and positioning them where best, then all that remained was to trace a rough outline of each onto the flat plane, cut away each niche and insert the models.

We were fairly chuffed with the outcome especially when we threw on a jade material layer and rendered it through Fusion’s cloud rendering service. Content, we uploaded the model to MyMiniFactory and entered the competition.

Shiny jade render of Ramesses II

Unfortunately we didn’t win the competition otherwise we would almost certainly have our heads buried in VR right now but nevertheless we’re very happy with the outcome and the awesome job MyMiniFactory did of printing it!

ramsses-museum
3D Printed with a working hinge!

(Print images by MyMiniFactory)

It may not be jade but it’s still pretty swanky

C

Categories
design games museum

Pinball Wizard: Games for Learning

Last Thursday, Charlie and Tom went along to an event organised by the London Museums Group and hosted by the Jewish Museum London that was all about games in museums.

The day consisted of a series of talks by game makers from both inside and outside museums, all with lots of interesting takes on what games are and what they (should) do. It was a great chance for us to fill our brains with expert information and got us both thinking about how we might use some of the principles we learned to make Museum in a Box even more engaging and – gasp! – fun 😀

Needless to say, they had a healthy amount of fun and they share some of the ideas as well as their own thoughts in this post…

Some of our fave takeaways:

It’s fun to have fun – you’ll learn stuff along the way.

The day began with a keynote from Martha Henson who distilled what makes a game into three basic constituents:

  • Mechanics
    The rules of your game. How the game is played, what actions the player can make, win or fail states, how rules are enforced
  • Dynamics
    How the rules act in motion. How they respond to player input and interact with other rules. The “run-time” behaviour of a game.
  • Aesthetics
    The player’s experience of the game. Is it fun? Social? Frustrating? Hilarious?

From Martha Henson’s talk Creating Compelling Museum Games

I don’t know about you but I find it really handy – as an inexperienced game designer approaching the subject – to be able to turn to simple principles like these to keep me on track when making something.

Another reason I enjoyed Martha’s keynote is that she used games to explain the principles she was describing – she got the whole room to perform the act of game  design by playing Cat on Yer Head and showed how you can get people to do things they don’t normally do through play:

In the above short video I’m trying out an app called Bounden which was developed by Game Oven Studios for the Dutch National Ballet, an app that gets you to – if not exactly dance – at least move your body in an unusual way.

Check out slides form Martha’s talk here.

Games don’t have to be on a screen (gasp!)

While I am most definitely familiar with screen based gaming (the original GameBoy and SNES being my first memories of such things), it’s good to be reminded of the fun to be had with simpler technology.

Lo-fi Fun

Charlotte Derry spoke about some amazing user research that she and colleagues had undertaken at Manchester Museum around allowing play to take place in your museum.

Instead of the perhaps more familiar ‘stop that’, ‘put that down’, ‘shush!’ school of public engagement, visitor services staff were encouraged to observe where visitors to the museum were making their own fun and to allow this to happen. They also experimented with simple and cheap activities – making animals and objects out of newspaper and sticky tape or using simple prompts to encourage fun and giggles:

Even better than just doing this research, Charlotte and friends produced a handbook to help other museums do the same.

cof

Taking Turns

Fran Jeens from the Jewish Museum showed off the fresh-off-the-press games that had been commissioned to promote discussion within school groups that visited the museum.

Teachers take a particular board and set of cards to a particular exhibit in the museum, sit about on cushions and everybody takes turns picking cards that relate facts, ask children to visually inspect the object in detail, pose questions or suggest activities.

This definitely got us thinking about how we might use cards to prompt activities around museum objects in Museum in a Box…

Barriers to play

Sophie Sampson gave a great appraisal of the barriers to playing games in public via observations gleaned from her work as one half of Matheson Marcault.

Having organised large scale gaming events for New Scientist, Somerset House and Kings College London Sophie has had the opportunity to watch people while they are playing all kinds of games but also to observe what it takes to get reluctant gamesters involved (and we’re talking mostly about adults here as kids generally have less inhibitions).

Sophie boiled it down to The Five Elements of the Decision to Play (I’ve added my summary interpretation in italics,  Sophie explained it much better tho…)

  • The Attractor
    “ooh what’s that? looks like it might be fun…”
  • The Invitation
    “hiya, it’s OK to act a bit differently in this space…”
  • The Threshold
    “…beyond here, you are in the game zone, prepare for funz!”
  • The Call and Response
    “Right, now you’re here, this is what you do…”
  • The End
    is the game over? ah, yes, the game is over… one more time?”

So hopefully I’ve not mangled those ideas to much but the main take away for me was that, even if you have a well designed, it’s worth your while thinking about how you invite people to actually play it.

Taking Inspiration from History

Andrea Cunningham & Sophie Sage from the V&A Museum of Childhood took us through the new exhibition Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered which recounts the history of the board game and  ‘celebrate[s] the joy, excitement and occasional frustration of playing board games.’.

The exhibition features all kinds of board games that you can sit down and play, while the exhibition itself can be experienced like a board game:

The exhibition also includes some related events like a dress up family tour as well as a wel attended board game night for grow-ups too… turns out that everyone likes having fun 🙂

At the end of the exhibition patrons can take a ‘board game personality test’ and discover out what kind of board game player they are. Andrea and Sophie invited us to take the test too and it turns out that I’m a Goody Two-Shoes type, always playing by the rules and trying to help everyone get along….

My take away from this section was that you can infuse most things with fun and games and make them more interesting and engaging. The fact there are enough board games for an exhibition in a museum suggests that humans have had an appetite for gaming for quite some time, too.

OK, I’ll leave it there.

There were plenty of other speakers that said interesting things, like

But this  post is already long enough. Suffice to say plenty of people believe in the power of play to engage and enthuse and educate in the cultural heritage sector and there are plenty of examples of it in practice.

A couple of thing I was left wondering about at the end were

  • The purpose of games – are they marketing/headline grabbers for museums? are they a learning tool? what needs do they address for a museum visitor?
  • How you measure success of a game – number of downloads/plays? inferred learning through observation? a written test? a laugh and a smile?

These might not even matter that much as fun is often an end in itself and if you’ve had fun, you might just have learned something along the way.

T.