Shared3D: Helping Heritage Organizations Tell Stories

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About Share3D

Share3D is an EU-funded project (whose official name is Sharing New Perspectives: Your 3D View on Europeana) that came out of an idea to use 3D as a driver to encourage people to explore and re-use cultural heritage content. We were aware that increasing numbers of cultural heritage institutions and researchers were uploading 3D content on Sketchfab and wanted to provide a tool to make it easier for them to share this content with Europeana. Next, we wanted to create a tool that would allow users to create stories that incorporated 3D content and other media from Europeana and Sketchfab.

share3d website

How and Why We Use Sketchfab

Sketchfab fits into our workflow in two places: the Share3D dashboard and the Share3D Storymaker.

Share3D Dashboard

share3d dashboard and storymaker

The Share3D Dashboard is a cloud-based service that uses Sketchfab’s API. Users of the dashboard can link their Sketchfab accounts and log in to select published models that they would like to share with Europeana. The Sketchfab metadata are then imported back to the dashboard where users can edit the metadata, adding the information needed to conform with Europeana’s specifications. The edited metadata records can then be submitted to Europeana from the Share3D Dashboard via CARARE’s aggregation service.

The dashboard is ideal for:

  • Cultural institutions (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) who are capturing their collections in 3D.
  • Researchers (archaeologists, historic buildings experts, curators) who are capturing monuments, landscapes, excavation findings, historic buildings and urban areas in 3D.
  • Creators of 3D models that depict cultural heritage objects.
  • All those who want to create an XML formatted metadata record that conforms to Europeana’s EDM schema.

Share3D has published a user guide to the dashboard that illustrates how Sketchfab’s API is used in importing metadata to the tool for editing.

Share3D Storymaker

share3d storymaker

The Share3D Storymaker, which is another cloud service tool, enables users to explore, create and experience 3D objects as stories. The Storymaker allows users of any background to search for content from Sketchfab and Europeana, to upload their own images and to use this content to create stories. The tool includes three templates, which allow users to create:

  • A story based on a hero object, which can be a 3D model or 2D media, with hotspots that are linked to annotations and other media.
  • A story composed of a series of slides that incorporate 3D and 2D media and annotations.
  • A story based on a timeline illustrated by 3D and 2D media and annotations.

The process of creating a story is described in the Share3D user guide.

The Storymaker is ideal for:

  • Educational purposes; for example, teachers can invite their students to create stories about any aspect of cultural heritage (the arts, history, landscapes, etc.) and encourage them to re-use the content that is available on Europeana and Sketchfab.
  • Tourism, for example, a 3D story of a monument can used as the basis for a tourist guide, allowing visitors to visualise the monument and its history
  • Curators who wish to use the objects in their collection to tell a story or to create an interactive resource
  • Creative industries i.e. 3D content can attract viewers attention in a scene
  • Researchers who wish to use a 3D story to communicate their research to a broader audience

We see the Storymaker as an exciting way of triggering the curiosity of people to learn about their cultural heritage, to explore a protected monument through time, or to encourage people to explore Europeana and discover the materials that illustrate different aspects of Europe’s history.

Sketchfab Features That We Value

Our project uses 2 features of Sketchfab that we find valuable—Sketchfab API and the 3D model viewer.

The API allows us to access and build on the metadata that are created by Sketchfab users when they upload a model, to access embed links and thumbnails for use in both of our tools.

The viewer allows us to embed 3D content into stories.

Share the Love

We love the fact that users can now find the first set of Sketchfab models shared using the Share3D dashboard in Europeana.

We’d like to share some of our favourite stories with you:

A great example of a timeline story is the one about Notre Dame de Paris. The story starts at 1163 AD, when the construction of Notre Dame started, and continues to April 2019 when, tragically, a fire broke out and destroyed a big part of the monument. This story includes the 3D model of the remains of Notre Dame after the disaster.

A great example of a hotspot story is the one about Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last emperor of Roman Empire. The story’s creator has incorporated a realistic 3D model of the emperor, describes the armor of the era, and shows the clothing using a 3D model coloring palette. In this way they build a story around the reasons that led Constantine to fight.

A great example of a slideshow story is the one about Vincent van Gogh. The story describes van Gogh’s life and family and continues with a 3D presentation of few of his best-known paintings, including ‘The Bedroom’, ‘Starry Night’, and the ‘Night Cafe’.

Looking Ahead

3D is offering cultural heritage a wide range of creative possibilities—interactive experiences, augmented and virtual reality, immersive digital experiences in museums, simulation environments, and so much more. 3D offers cultural institutions and researchers a way of creating comprehensive and rich documentation of real-world objects and sharing this documentation with the broader public.

Our main advice for anyone who is starting out in 3D for the cultural heritage is to plan your projects carefully. If you want to share your 3D content online and preserve it for future uses, it’s a good idea to follow best practice guidelines from the start.

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About the author

Kate Fernie and Dimitris Gavrilis

Kate: I am currently operations manager for CARARE which is a partner in Share3D; my background is in archaeology and I’ve been following 3D since 2000. Dimitris: I am a Researcher with the Digital Curation Unit (DCU) of Athena Research Centre and coordinator of the Share3D project, my background is as a computer scientist. We’ve worked together in a number of European projects including CARARE, 3D ICONS and now Share3D.


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