A great example of unrelated technology assisting Museums

Sometimes due to lack of resources, distances, expenses or many other factors, we find our work limited in certain ways. This is where enterprising minds find alternate ways to achieve results. While this example is used to plan ahead the lighting of a photography, other technologies can be used to assist museums in planning exhibitions, or even be the support for new ones. Google Sketchup offers an interesting tool for museum workers. Personally i have used Sketchup in two occasions, the first was in the creation of 3D models of the art galleries of the Norwich Castle Museum & and in the creation of examples of 3D technology in the conservation of objects.

In the case of the Norwich Castle, the idea was to create three dimensional models of the art galleries in the museum so that the staff, specifically the design team and the curators, could plan exhibitions in an easier way than building real models or drawings. These digital versions allow you to place walls, move objects, change colors, all with the ease of a click.

However as we moved forward we realized there was another possibility: these models could be used to make sure the works actually fit through the doors in the galleries, thus allowing us to save money and time. The way we do this is we created “boxes” with the dimensions of the objects, and since the 3d models are 1:1, we could determine if the objects would fit through the doors in the galleries.

As for conservation of objects, while the idea is primitive, and in fact better and more advanced software exists (which I will touch on further down), using Google Sketchup can show us the possibilities of digital technology and can be used as proof of concept before undertaking more expensive technological efforts.

As we can see the possibilities of something as Google Sketchup are only constrained by our resourcefulness and willingness to look at things from a different point of view, which takes us to video game technology.

Video games are often seen as entertainment and constantly denigrated as mindless activities and not worth pursuing (I would argue some are art, but that is not the scope of this article) however they are a multibillion industry and they drive graphics technologies. Their high budgets and the need to produce high quality graphics in short amounts of time has led them to create ways to create digital objects at an incredible speed. Not only that but a big part of the PC gaming scene is the creation of Mods. Mods or modding is a slang term for “modifying”, and what it means is taking a video game and changing it, either by adding things that the creators themselves did not add or to use the basic structure of the original game to create an entirely new game. Some companies even encourage this and release tools to do so.

Companies such as Epic software have created game engines (basically the scaffolding to create a game) that can be licensed and used to create whatever we can think of. As we can see from the video the posibilites are amazing and can lead to a new age in museum conservation and research, where objects are not overly handled, researchers and visitors have unlimited access to these artifacts at all times and from any place in the world.

By approaching all these technologies from different angles we can create something that is cost effective and engaging. The only piece missing is the drive from organizations and individuals to make it happen, to embrace alternative methods and create the next big thing.


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