Cultural Heritage Digitization

Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD

Fraunhofer IGD, Cultural Heritage Digitization
Fraunhofer-Institut für Graphische Datenverarbeitung - Interaktive Engineering Technologien



Millions of cultural heritage artifacts populate our museums and about 90% still await discovery in museum archives. The 3D Documentation of cultural heritage artifacts represents a huge market potential which is largely unexplored.

• Arbitrary availability and concurrent access to digital surrogates of cultural heritage artifacts for art historians and scientists.

• Use of digital surrogates in cultural heritage institutions for exhibition planning, documentation and acquisition planning.

• Virtual presentation (combined with new forms of presentation technologies, such as hybrid exhibitions) as a means to increase attractiveness

• Physical surrogates based on digital 3D models

• Substitute loaning of cultural heritage artifacts by digital surrogates avoiding damage from transport, insurance fees and legal issues.

• Reusability of historically correct 3D models in gaming and film industry as well as for architectural reconstruction.

Natural disasters such as the collapse of the historic archive in Cologne and the fire at the Anna Amalia library in Weimar remind us of the importance to digitally preserve of our cultural heritage. Currently the process of building 3D digitized virtual surrogates from existing Cultural Heritage resources often requires an investment of several thousand EUROs per object. Given the fact that several hundreds of millions of objects exist in Cultural Heritage institutions (more than 130 million alone in the collection of the Smithsonian), these costs and time efforts are simply prohibitive.

According to an extensive study of the Victoria and Albert Museum conducted in the framework of the European research project 3D-COFORM, the 3D acquisition of moderately sized objects requires 5 to 20 hours with state-of-the-art structured light acquisition techniques for geometry and texture alone – without considering view dependent reflectance properties.

Through progress in 3D acquisition and automation technologies, its economic use for mass digitization of cultural heritage artifacts is within reach. The Competence Center for Cultural Heritage Digitization develops fast, economic digitization technologies for a faithful, virtual reproduction of real world objects, which enable an automated, accurate and physically correct reconstruction of their geometry, texture and optical material reflectance properties. The used reconstruction techniques digitize objects using a variety of sensors and light-sources under controlled environmental conditions for comparable results of the highest quality.