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Inaugural 3D Exhibition 'Where Science Meets Heritage' Unveiled

13 February 2013

3d-exhibit

UCL Qatar has unveiled its inaugural exhibition entitled 3D Encounters: Where Science Meets Heritage, allowing the local public access to cutting edge 3D scanning technology of ancient artefacts for the first time.

The 3D interactive exhibition is one of a series of activities that UCL is planning to increase public engagement and interest in cultural heritage and its preservation. The exhibition aptly takes place in the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture, a year of festivities to celebrate the long-standing relationship between the two countries.

The exhibition explores how 3D digital replicas of museum collections can be used to advance museum, archaeological and conservation practice. Using 3D visualisations of artefacts from UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in London, the exhibition offers a 360 degree view of ancient items that range from fragments of stone vessels and carved wooden hair combs to a skull on an ancient Egyptian ruler.

Professor Thilo Rehren, Director of UCL Qatar, commented: “UCL is leading the way in exploring the application of new digital technologies for the study and enjoyment of cultural heritage. Over the past five years, the Petrie Museum and UCL Department of Geomatic Engineering have worked together to examine the use of 3D imaging technologies, specifically photogrammetry and laser scanning, to make museum collections more accessible and engaging for all.“

Rehren added: “A key objective of the UCL’s research is to develop digital applications that encourage more international collaboration. High quality 3D digital replicas of museum collections can overcome geographic barriers that have limited the ability of heritage professionals from different countries to work together to better understand material heritage.”

With the support of its commercial partner, Arius3D, UCL has helped improve the way 3D laser scanning technology can replicate heritage materials as well as develop end-user applications using 3D images. This exhibition presents these prototypes applications to the public for the first time.

How it works

At the exhibition visitors can try out the 3D technology themselves and handle virtual images of historical treasures. The public are invited to do this through a series of interactive activities that combine 3D images with immersive technologies such as heightened reality and gesture recognition. For example, one interactive visualisation transports visitors to an archaeological site in Egypt where they are able to select 3D replica artefacts to pick up and inspect.

Visitors can also try their hands at restoring an ancient mummy mask through a touch screen interactive image that allows them to choose and test different facial features. Another interactive option offers a 3D image of a skull that archaeologists believe is that of an ancient ruler named Inti. Visitors can then build layers of muscles, veins and skin on to the ruler’s skull via touch screen animation to see what Inti might have looked like.

Tonya Nelson, UCL Petrie Museum Manager, explained: “The goal has always been to create a 3D image library of the entire Petrie collection, so that it can be made available online to anyone who is interested. However, the real value comes from other institutions doing the same, so that all the world’s collections are available in one large virtual museum. My hope is that this exhibition will inspire other museums to start 3D imaging programmes of their own.”

UCL Qatar is working in partnership with Qatar Foundation and Qatar Museums Authority to develop a new generation of cultural heritage professionals within Qatar, having launched Master’s degree programs in museum studies, archaeology and conservation in September 2012. The exhibition’s 3D technology will greatly enhance students’ ability to gain an in depth understanding of ancient artefacts through virtual presentation that brings them back to life.

Members of the public can view the exhibition at UCL Qatar, housed on the second floor of the Georgetown University Building at Hamad bin Khalifa University, in Education City during working hours, from 8am to 5pm.