North West Museums launch virtual 3D exhibition

Museums of the North West Photogrammetry Hub has launched a virtual exhibition displaying models from museums and institutions across the UK North West, including the University’s Garstang Museum of Archaeology and Victoria Gallery & Museum

In early 2021, the University of Liverpool secured funding from the Art Fund to extend the University’s extensive expertise in photogrammetry to UK North West museums, providing a collaborative hub with digital facilities for staff to train in digital innovations and produce a joint virtual exhibition.

The development and establishment of a North West museums hub for digital 3D models is completely new. The project provided training for staff from the partner museums in digital 3D recording, documentation and presentation. The output of the project is the new virtual exhibition which includes 3D models of items from the collections of the partner organisations.

The exhibition demonstrates the breadth of the collections held by the North West partner organisations and is divided into individual exhibition ‘rooms’ to group the artefacts by themes, which include Ancient Egypt, Natural History, Maritime and Waterways, and Culture in the UK North West.

The funding allowed the participating museums to deliver their collections to wider audiences when, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became almost impossible to do so. It also upskilled those museums to explore new ways of presenting their collections in the future. The digital exhibition engages with museum visitors in a new way, provides access to vulnerable individuals who do not feel confident in visiting public places, and simultaneously connects with new and even international audiences.

Charlotte Sargent, who was the photogrammetry technician on the project said: “People love to engage with 3D models in ways they can’t with objects behind museum displays; they can zoom in and move around it to see hidden details all in the comfort of their own home. The training we provided will hopefully encourage museums to explore these new technologies in new and exciting ways to attract old and new audiences alike.”

Ardern Hulme-Beaman, who leads the project said: “Cutting edge digital 3D technologies provides new ways to experiencing museum collections. In an increasingly digital world technologies are moving at a rapid pace and it is often difficult even for experts to stay at the forefront. This highly collaborative project opened up opportunities to get leading edge expertise to a wide range of audiences. This will hopefully form a hub for such skills development far into the future.”

Through this project, the North West Photogrammetry Hub has developed and perfected efficient methods for the digital recording of museum collections and objects of cultural heritage importance. The Hub aims to demystify the photogrammetry method for museum professionals and will open up new avenues for exploring the past for not only the wider public audience but also research and conservation.