Cultural Heritage Spotlight: Tula State Arms Museum

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Our Cultural institutions Page highlights our ongoing support of museums and cultural institutions with free accounts and access to tools. In Cultural Heritage Spotlight, we’ll explore museums who are using 3D technology to bring new life to their collections. Here’s the story of the Tula State Arms Museum in Russia.


The history of Tula State Arms Museum is a story of transformation of a small limited-access museum into one of the major tourist destinations in Russia, an institution with passion for collecting, learning, and sharing knowledge with its visitors. Through our collection and narrative tours we want our visitors to explore Russian history during tough times of war and peace, and show them how the current weapon making process was formed along with the development of the whole nation.

We have only recently discovered the powerful tool of Sketchfab with which we can speak to a wider audience than ever before – to the whole world. If you live on the other side of the Earth it is now possible to explore the Museum collection without being physically present in one of our exhibition halls.

Let’s have a look at the wonderful selection of Oriental cold weapon represented in our museum mainly by knives, axes, shields and swords from the end of 16 century. Examples of such arms are known for their original shape which tells us about culture, traditions and beliefs of their owners. Rich decoration methods including etching, carving or inlaid golden patterns give an idea about outstanding skills and mastery of oriental blacksmiths.

This Throwing Knife Pinga has a pretty unusual shape distinct from ordinary knives. It has three steel blades pointed in different directions with the purpose of increasing chances of hitting and causing severe damage to the target.

Mainly utilized In Central Africa by Zande People for warfare and hunting, it is believed that the same weapon is depicted in Libyan wall sculptures.

The label “throwing knife” was used by ethnographers to various objects that didn’t fit into other weapon categories even though they may not have been thrown, like a Trombash.

Another example of Oriental cold arms is the Kris Dagger. Originating in East Java around 1361 AD in the form we recognize today, this stabbing weapon has become indigenous to other parts of South East Asia like Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei and Southern Philippines.

Three parts of Kris – blade, hilt and sheath are objects of art richly decorated by using various materials such as precious types of wood, gold or ivory.

The specific wavy blade with metal alloy decoration is one of the Kris’ main features. In order to give the blade its layered damascene pattern, alternating laminations of iron and nickel iron occur. It is interesting that for some time the smiths of Vorstenlanden used rare iron with small percentage of nickel obtained from the Meteorite that fell to earth at the end of 18 century near the Prambanan temple complex. They etched the blade with acidic substances causing the distinctive silvery pattern to light up against the darkened steel or iron.
The hilt was often carved in meticulous details representing various animals and demons coated with gold and adorned with semi-precious and precious gemstones, like rubies. The curved pistol-grip hilt helped in stabbing strikes.

The Kris sheath (warangka) can also be made of various materials, often a wooden frame coated with metals like iron, brass, silver or even gold. The upper part of the sheath formed a broad curved handle made of wood or sometimes ivory, adorned with precious or semi-precious stones. It is performed in the shape of a pirogue and presumably symbolizes the “moon boat” where, according to the legend, a Javanese hero Pangi lives.
That is just a tiny little part of what you can see in the Arms Museum and there is much more to be done to digitize our objects in the near future.

Our Workflow

Since most of our objects have very complicated shape varying in length and thickness, for example swords with glossy surface or rifles, using photogrammetry techniques can be either inconvenient in some cases or give poorer quality meshes. So for these particular models we had to do manual modeling in 3ds Max using photographic material as a reference and some sculpting in Zbrush. Also, modeling museum objects require certain approach in texturing process, as there is no place for random textures, scratches, dirt effects, etc., which are often used in creating game assets. That is why such programs like Quixel or Substance Painter with their own libraries of effects and materials could not be used in obtaining at least Diffuse maps in order to speed up the process. As long as we want to achieve maximum accuracy in our final models, making textures can be the most time-consuming part for some objects. In order to bring native textures to our models, a series of photographs of a particular object are made from different angles, which then combined with UVs in Photoshop.


There is no doubt that using Sketchfab is a great leap forward for cultural institutions to grow and prosper on an international level, providing more opportunities for education, research and enjoyment for people of all ages, and we are very grateful for being part of this developing community. In our turn, as museum, we promise to continue working in that direction, constantly improving the quality of models and including new features such as Animation to make a difference to our visitor’s virtual experience.

-Thank you Michail! You can explore the full collection of the Tula State Arms Museum on their gallery page.

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