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Building 3D museums

May 13, 2014

Libraries, newspapers, classrooms — everything is supposedly going digital. Some say that’s a bad thing; but Stacie King, associate professor in IU Bloomington’s Department of Anthropology, has a pretty good argument for why museums should go digital, too.

King, a faculty curator for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, received funding from the IU Bloomington Office of the Vice Provost for Research and other sources to host a workshop on building 3-D digital museums. As part of the grant, King hopes to design a virtual Web exhibit for a small community museum in Santa Ana Tavela in southeastern Oaxaca, Mexico, featuring archaeological artifacts found during the research project she started in 2007.

This summer, King will travel to Oaxaca to discuss the project with local and national government authorities.

Building a digital museum in rural areas will reach communities that otherwise can’t easily visit the Santa Ana Tavela Community Museum, King says.

“If I can develop some sort of low-cost, open-sourced platform in which we can build 3-D digital objects, and create a virtual Web gallery for this community museum, that would be a way to reach those communities, but also to reach researchers from around the world who might want to see these pieces,” says King, adding that the community she wants to reach include residents from Tavela who now live in Oaxaca City, Mexico City, or the United States.

The first component of King’s grant included training in late March at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas. For five days, King worked with the center’s staff to establish a workflow for creating 3-D digital objects all the way through designing a virtual Web gallery.

Using the same workflow King established in Arkansas, those participating in IU’s workshop will learn more about the low-cost options that can digitize heritage objects and artifacts.

“I think building digital museums is one way that we can really improve and democratize access to the results of scientific and humanities research more widely,” King says.

This post by Jaclyn Lansbery originally appeared in the Art at IU blog here.