Over 100,000 Cultural Heritage 3D Models on Sketchfab

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It’s with great pleasure that we can announce that we recently passed over 100,000 3D models in the Cultural Heritage and History category on Sketchfab! Taking into account that only about 30% of all 3D models on Sketchfab have been assigned a category, the real total number of models is likely a lot higher.

This is an amazing achievement made possible by a worldwide community of museums, archives, universities, education programs, government agencies, 3D scanning enthusiasts, artists, and more. 

Since Sketchfab launched in 2012, it has become the perfect home for digital 3D collections of all shapes, sizes, and kinds of subject matter. In 2015, we launched our Cultural Heritage program, which has supported hundreds of organisations and projects with free Sketchfab subscriptions to help them share their amazing digital content online.

From the prehistoric period to modern history, you can find amazing and educational 3D models to suit your research, classroom curriculum, or simply your arm chair interests. Here are just a few of our favourites: 


What’s even better is that almost 20,000 of these models are available to download and re-use under easy-to-understand Creative Commons licenses, which means that this amazing wealth of 3D data can travel beyond Sketchfab to be reused in new and amazing ways.

As always, we owe a huge THANK YOU to the amazing community that powers the biggest online 3D museum in the world.

History in HD

While we generally recommend optimizing 3D models for publishing online, one thing that researchers, museums, conservators, and digitisation experts have long requested is support for high resolution data on Sketchfab. But how to strike a balance between huge file sizes and a performant user experience? That’s where Sketchfab’s support for massive 3D models comes in.

Released in 2018 and updated this year, it’s now possible to stream enormous 3D models of unlimited file size and texture resolution. Sketchfab is offering this feature as a paid service for selected partners right now—get in touch if this sounds like something that will be useful in your next online project.

Heritage at Risk

Even a 3D scan cannot replace a real object or place after disaster has struck, but digital documentation can allow virtual access to the inaccessible should the unthinkable happen. This was just the case when tragic fires destroyed two historic sites in recent memory—Brazil’s Museu Nacional in September 2018 and Notre-Dame de Paris in April of 2019.

Within minutes it was possible to draw together collections of existing 3D scans of objects and spaces connected to these sites, and within hours professionals and hobbyists were uploading new scans and organising efforts to make as much digital content available as possible. 

Explore the two collections below for yourself:

Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro by Thomas Flynn on Sketchfab

Notre Dame de Paris by Thomas Flynn on Sketchfab

Crowdsourcing 3D Documentation

What makes the cultural heritage collections on Sketchfab so special is that it is not only official organisations creating amazing 3D scans. 3D scanning hobbyists and enthusiasts have captured thousands of artifacts in 3D and uploaded them to Sketchfab, often these are the only existing 3D scans of important historical objects. 

A great example of this is the work of Sketchfab Master Geoffrey Marchal. Geoffrey is a hobbyist 3D scanner who has captured over 600 artworks and artifacts, primarily from museums local to him in Denmark and Belgium. 

With over 160,000 downloads associated with his Sketchfab account to date, Geoffrey is by far the most downloaded member of Sketchfab—and he exclusively posts cultural and historical 3D models! Thank you, Geoffrey!

Geoffrey Marchal’s Sketchfab profile has had over 160,000 downloads!

A New Revenue Stream

With the increasing need for 3D models to build virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR) experiences, provide creative content for traditional film, video games, and 3D printing some cultural organisations and projects are seizing the opportunity to develop new revenue streams to support their work. 

Where copyright and ethical concerns allow, this can be a great way to generate passive income, especially for smaller, regional organisations that can be more at risk from cuts to national and state funding.

A few cultural organisations are selling on the Sketchfab Store, namely the Grand Rapids Public Museum (US), The Hue Museum of Fine Arts (VN) and Teramo Musiva (IT). Perhaps a better indication of the opportunities for cultural 3D content as revenue stream is the number of non-institutional sellers on the Store generating passive income through royalty free licensing. Of course any institution considering a similar move will need to carefully weigh copyright and ethical factors into the decision, but the opportunity remains clear.

Apply to become a seller on the Sketchfab Store today, or contact us for more information.

Cultural heritage and history models on the Sketchfab Store.

Just the beginning

Amazingly we are only just at the beginning of discovering what it means to have widespread access to cultural content in 3D. Sketchfab is dedicated to maintaining its support for the heritage sector in the years to come, and joining in the conversation as standards and best practices for digitisation, dissemination, access, and licensing are developed. 

If you want to find out more about how people and organisations around the world are using Sketchfab to share cultural and historical content online in 3D, you can hear directly from them in one of the many Cultural Heritage Spotlights on our blog. For an overview of how and why 3D content is being created in the cultural sector, take a look at the results of our first ever survey of cultural heritage users. Finally, if you just want to see some cool cultural heritage 3D models every week, then look out for our weekly cultural heritage top 10, published every Friday.

If you are working on a cultural heritage or history based 3D project, get in touch to find out more about using Sketchfab via museums@sketchfab.com.

About the author

Thomas Flynn

Community & Cultural Heritage Lead at Sketchfab.

Expert in 3D scanning, photogrammetry, online publishing & dissemination.

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