Digital Heritage: Theories, Methods and Challenges

In this module, I learned a lot about digitising 3D models using Digital Cameras(and associated equipment like tripods and light boxes), Computers and Programs(Agisoft and Photoshop). There was quite a steep learning curve, as it was my first time working on search a project but from what I learned another project would be very interesting. This project was named Ecclesiology 3D, and the results will be visible on Sketchfab as soon as the project is made public.

Besides this, I got a broad overview of a diverse range of topics.

The role of the Museum and the artifact has changed in modern times alongside the widespread use of digital technology.
The Museum and the Artifact in the Age of Digital Technology

There are numerous concerns around recording and recreating heritage digitally, this is touched upon here.
Re-configuring Perception of the Artifact: Digital Technology and Recording Heritage

The role of Digital scholarship in the humanities was also discussed, and its relation to ongoing debates in specific areas of study. This example is an exercise relating to Archaeology specifically but the issues raised have substantial crossover with other fields.
The Digital, Archaeology and Digital Archaeology

This is a photo of one of the failed attempts at processing the photos for the chalice, settings here were purposely changed to fill the height field and show that the computer could work out the shape of the object from the data set. Though the model was far from ideal, it did make an interesting illustration of where data was missing – and what the computer could figure out from the photographs.
This will be detailed later, and the steps that I have to take to rectify the digital model.

Group Project

A major part of this module was a group project digitising some items in the Ecclesiology collection of Maynooth. Here is a link to the wordpress blog for the Science and Ecclesiology collection.

Having the opportunity to work with a cultural institution was a massive advantage for this project, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth has a fantastic Science and Ecclesiology collection. One of the interesting things about this collection is that there were some largely undocumented objects as part of the collections, which I found very surprising. I found this aspect of the project much more rewarding that simply learning with practice objects, and though not all of the research that I did could be put into the project I learned a lot about a variety of different subjects.
As a group, we made one visit to the museum before data capturing in order to select possible objects and make our final decisions based on research and practicality.

The objects which I chose are an Egyptian Ushabti, a funerary statuette which was an outlier in the Maynooth collection, and an ornate ceremonial chalice which was owned by a former Archbishop of Dublin

The Ushabti is pictured above as it was displayed in the Maynooth Ecclesiology collection,

Data Capturing

Data Capturing was one of the most important aspects of this project, I learned a lot from this experience – admittedly it was quite a steep learning curve and some more projects like this would be very beneficial. A lot of what I learned here on how to avoid problems and improve data gathering was learned after this stage in the group project, but at the same time it was quite a comprehensive introduction to a fascinating and useful project.
Ideally, I think I’d like to find a way to use this kind of technology and integrate it into my own research. However, there would be considerable expense involved in obtaining my own equipment and digitizing large objects or architecture would prove time consuming and challenging.
Equipment set up list are important considerations, there is a lot needed and this was something that I paid attention to in the week before data gathering. Extension leads, memory cards, and numerous other “smaller” but vital pieces of equipment are quite important. Preparation is key to a project like this, and this is one of the biggest lessons that I learned.
I think that RTI(Reflective Transformation Imaging) would have been feasible with more preparation. I found many useful ideas and tips online like this page
While there would be work in setting up a RTI dome, it could potentially be done for comparatively low expense – and take out a lot of the labor of capturing the data manually. If one was to work on similar projects more frequently, it could be worthwhile to invest in and construct.

Both my chosen objects were captured using a turntable, taking care to ensure that there was overlap between the photos. The Egyptian Ushabti was much easier to capture than the Chalice.
Photos were taken from several elevations, taking care to capture every side of the object.

Digital Processing

Digital Processing proved to be quite a challenge, requiring a lot of processing power and spending time using Agisoft software. The process itself was not massively difficult, however care does need to be taken to complete all the necessary steps correctly and sequentially.

Aligning photos:
A lot of the images below show problems in the various stages of the process, it should be noted that this is largely due to problems aligning the photos in the first set. The biggest problem encountered by me in this project was caused by the reflective surface of one of my chosen objects, a beautiful chalice that had been owned by a former Archbishop of Dublin. The shine and glare caused a lot of problems with the alignment of photos. A key thing to remember is that photos need to be overlapping as much as possible for the best results with this process.
The image below shows a very distorted digital model of the chalice, when one looks at where the images are located in this screenshot – it is easy to see that they are all clustered together in localised areas. because the data gathering was done using a turntable and several elevations, these images should really be positioned in circles around the object.

Building a Point Cloud
Here there was a bit of difficulty, as illustrated below there was massive distortion in the shape of the chosen object.

Unfortunately, the data set was not comprehensive enough to build up the shape of the chosen object due to the reflective surface causing massive distortion. Photoshop was used to try and reduce the effect of the glare, and to try and build chunks to fill the gaps shown below.


Over the Christmas holidays I’m going to try and see if I can manipulate the data set to make some form of model.. it would seem as shame to waste the research done on this object.

3d Printing

Basics: Once you have a digital file,
Open the file using 3d printing software – in this case CURA was used. Change settings according to preference.
For the best results the object should be laying flat on the bed of the 3d Printer

My first ever attempt at 3d printing… didn’t turn out very well. I was using a Lulzbot Mini, largely learning by trial and error. i had chosen the fastest mode, which had the least high quality to begin with. I also printed the object laying down, which retrospectively as a mistake as its surface was not flat and there was some distortion from the filament moving down towards the bed of the printer,

However, this object was largely printed in order to complete a draft report on my role as a “3d Print Coordinator” while still waiting .stl files to be sent on for printing. It was good to see the results of low quality 3d printing for the purpose of timing, while saving time the surface was far from ideal and unfit for the purpose of presentation.

The second object was better, a votive offering – the digital file was processed by Hannah

The third time is the charm as they say! A Crucifix was the third item I attempted to print, using a digital file processed by Marianna and it worked out very well. I Selected the options print brim, and print support structure. This effectively steadied the base and provided a light frame to support the upper body of the Cross

Unfortunately, the base of the cross was snapped as it was pried off the base of the 3d Printer. This can be fixed relatively easily with glue. This wasn’t really a massive setback really, but it is best off avoided by taking more care when removing the object.

The fourth object, the St.Cecilia Statuette was printed in high detail using white ABS (HIPS)


The objects are displayed online on Sketchfab, currently the channel is on private but when a link is made public it will be included here.

Social media was used to promote and talk about the project, I was not massively involved in this part of the process but I believe that it was of considerable use in reaching more of the Digital Humanities community.


To conclude, this particular group project went quite well. It was a learning experience, and though there were a few road bumps in the process the problems encountered are clearly identifiable and preparation for such difficulties can be made next time in order to avoid these mistakes.

This page is still under construction 🙂 Check back later!