Using 3D as an Educational Tool at the Stanford Libraries

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The Stanford Libraries Digital Library Systems and Services department has always engaged with emerging technologies in libraries, and has, over the past 3 years, developed a full-service 3D imaging program as part of the Digital Production Group labs, which are primarily tasked with digitization of books, manuscripts, and other print materials. Aside from being an emerging technology in libraries, 3D is also increasingly used in teaching and learning, both as a methodology in certain fields and as a way to replicate and use rare or fragile objects in classroom settings.

Our service includes 3D imaging of materials, either in our lab located in Green Library or in the classroom with our mobile set-up, and post-processing and delivery of files specified by the project’s stakeholder. We are actively working on our pipeline to ingest 3D models into the repository and display them in our catalog with descriptive metadata created by stakeholders. As the Digitization Services Manager, I am responsible for overseeing this work, but nothing would be possible without our team: Lab Manager, Tony Calavano, who does much of the imaging and post-processing work, along with Wayne Vanderkuil.

Tools and Equipment

Stanford’s 3D digitization started with testing a variety of tools and methods, using objects from the Anthropology and Archaeology departments at Stanford University. Astrid Smith, one of the Digital Production Group’s Production Coordinators, along with Tony and Wayne, used photogrammetry (using a Canon DSLR and Agisoft Photoscan) and the Artec Space Spider on a collection of stone tools and animal skeletons, keeping meticulous notes on time, ease of method, and overall process. At the end of this testing period, the team settled on structured light scanning, and now uses the HP 3D Structured Light Scanner Pro S3 in production.

We post-process models using the HP 3D Scan software, and then use RapidCompact to produce models at reduced resolutions for delivery. Depending on stakeholder needs, we use Meshmixer to clean up models for 3D printing. In order to store the models for long-term preservation and access, we accession them into the Stanford Digital Repository, and have stakeholders create descriptive metadata, which allows for models to be discoverable by users in our library catalog. Currently, the accessioning process is manual, but we are working with our Digital Library Infrastructure development team to automate that process, which will enable us to efficiently accession all of the 3D models we currently have. This frog skull from the Department of Anthropology collection is an example of an accessioned object in our repository.

3D as an Educational Tool

Since those testing days, we’ve worked on a few ongoing projects, in addition to regular tours and participation in the broader 3D community, primarily with the IIIF 3D Community Group. The two major projects we’ve been involved with are the Bison Skeleton imaging project, and an interactive 3D imaging session that is part of an Archaeology course on campus. For the Bison project, we partnered with the Stanford Anthropology Department to make 3D scans of an entire bison skeleton, which resulted in approximately 150 3D models of bones. The images were post-processed, and will be printed at their actual size for assembly by students.

Our ongoing work with the Stanford University Archaeology Center entails bringing our mobile 3D set-up into a Stanford University class, wherein students receive an introduction to 3D imaging, and then a hands-on imaging session in small groups. The 3D scans are then uploaded to Sketchfab for use in an exhibit of the Collection’s materials, curated by the students. This project was done in the Spring of 2018 and will take place again in May 2019. In each of these projects, the use of 3D technology enables students to work with rare and fragile materials and provides new pedagogical approaches to anthropology and archaeology.

We look forward to continuing our work with stakeholders across the Stanford campus, improving our Digital Library infrastructure to enable the automated accessioning of 3D content, and participating in larger community efforts around standardization, engagement, and promoting 3D imaging in cultural heritage institutions.

About the author

Dinah Handel

Digitization Services Manager for Stanford Libraries. She oversees the digitization program and associated projects, which includes working closely with the Digital Production Group, the Media Preservation Lab, and the Born Digital Forensics Lab.

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