Sketchfab from Home: Cultural Heritage

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As students and educators return to school, either in-person or remotely, we’re revisiting this post, originally from early April. Read on to explore the incredible variety of cultural heritage content on Sketchfab.

Hello and welcome to the first in a new series of blog posts that aspire to keep you interested and entertained during a time you may be at home a little more. In these posts we’ll be sharing insights into the Sketchfab platform and community, highlighting interesting models and projects, and curating 3D collections for you to browse and explore.

Today’s Sketchfab from Home theme is Cultural Heritage.

The Cultural Heritage Community on Sketchfab

There are over 100,000 3D models in Sketchfab’s Cultural Heritage & History category, and, considering that many models are not categorized at all, the true total is likely much higher. Models are added to this category by a broad range of organisations and individuals from across the globe.

Museums, non-profit, educational and scientific organizations, as well as 3D scanning enthusiasts all contribute valuable 3D models that help document our world and culture.

Read on to discover amazing collections that use 3D to its full potential in educating and explaining global culture. Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything!

Virtual Visits

Take a moment to step out of your real location and be transported to somewhere far away. Pay a virtual visit to the Palace of Versailles, the Shetland Islands, the Konzerthaus in Berlin and many more unique and remote places – even some that don’t exist in real life! Many are optimized for viewing in VR too.

Go Behind the Scenes

Don’t just take our word for how Sketchfab can be used to explore, experience and learn about cultural heritage in 3D – you can hear straight from the organisations and professionals themselves.

There are just under 200 Cultural Heritage Spotlights on the Sketchfab blog that take you behind the scenes at world-renowned museums and projects, showing you how and why 3D models are created.

Culture in Augmented Reality

If you’d rather bring some culture into your own home, why not try loading up one of the models from the collection below in AR? You can experience any model in AR using the Sketchfab mobile app, and iOS users can view models in AR Quick Look thanks to our recent USDZ integration.

Making the Most of Sketchfab

The Sketchfab 3D viewer has several useful features that can help you learn more about objects and spaces.


Annotations are a great way to take a guided tour around a 3D model, offering contextual information and drawing attention to important details.


Some things can be much more easily understood in motion. Learn how objects work by viewing animated models.


Scenes come to life when accompanied by audio tours, soundtracks, or ambient sounds. Engage with and learn from models as you use another of your senses.

Audio is currently unavailable via the Sketchfab 3D editor but it is still possible to add sounds to your 3D models  using the Sketchfab API.

Point Clouds

Point clouds are a common output from laser scanning workflows, often used as part of building and other conservation surveys. While they may not enhance our understanding of a cultural object or space per se, they are beautiful to look at and explore.

Experience Lost Heritage

Over the years, Sketchfab has supported and hosted initiatives that aim to reconstruct and document heritage that has been tragically damaged or destroyed.

Shuri Castle, Japan

In October 2019, Shuri Castle 首里城 in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan was completely destroyed by fire. The Our Shurijo project was established to crowdsource tourist photography, process these images into 3D and publish the results on Sketchfab. Explore the collection by clicking the imge below and read this in depth blog article for more information.

Notre-Dame de Paris, France

In April 2019, a fire severely damaged this iconic building in Paris. Within a few hours, new 3D models of the building were being posted to Sketchfab and people were able to access several scans and reconstructions that had been previously posted, too.

Museu Nacional, Brazil

In September 2018, the Museu Nacional suffered a devastating fire that destroyed many unique collections and parts of the building itself. Some 3D models of the collection and architecture had already been made available on Sketchfab and the LAPID lab from the museum continues to make parts of the collection available online in 3D. You can learn more about the LAPID lab’s ongoing work in this blog article.

Rekrei, (aka Project Mosul), Global

A project born out of the destruction of cultural property in Iraq in 2015, Rekrei is one of the first projects of its kind, crowdsourcing data to reconstruct lost heritage in 3D. The project’s 3D outputs include contributions from all over the world and there is a great article about Rekrei’s first initiative, Project Mosul, on this blog.

Sketchfab-Powered Online Collections

As you may know, 3D models on Sketchfab are not only available on the site but embeddable pretty much anywhere online. Check out the links below to explore some Sketchfab powered online collections that put the 3D models in context with official information from cultural institutions. Here are 10 examples for you to explore:

Reconstructing the Past

While many 3D models in the cultural heritage and history category are 3D scans (real objects captured in 3D), there are many 3D models in the category that have been lovingly crafted by expert 3D artists and designers. These models often show things as they once were, filling in details that have been lost to time.

Re-imagine, Re-use, Remix

Plenty of 3D artists on Sketchfab take inspiration from historic and cultural themes and designs and their modern digital creations are often mind blowing in their quality and ingenuity.

Anyone can also adapt and reuse cultural heritage 3D models too; right now there are roughly 25,000 downloadable 3D models in the cultural heritage category which can be downloaded under Creative Commons Attribution licenses. Not only that, but hundreds of public domain 3D models have recently been made available under Sketchfab’s CC0 Public Domain programme for cultural heritage.

Check out the collection below for a taste of what happens when cultural heritage and the creative artistic community mix:

Go Exploring Yourself

Keep up-to-date with the latest additions to the cultural heritage category here and – while you’re exploring – why not browse the Sketchfab member list (select different user categories from the menu) and give your favorite cultural organisations a follow?

About the author

Thomas Flynn

Community & Cultural Heritage Lead at Sketchfab.

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

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