By Catherine Cruickshank
From January – August 2014 I selected a range of Cypriot artefacts from The Bridges Collection for 3D scanning and modelling, held in the School of Classics, University of St Andrews. This was an experimental project conducted in collaboration with the School of Classics, Computer Science and Museum Collections, which formed the basis of my project for the Mlitt in Museum and Gallery Studies. The project was carried out with the aim of broadly representing the chronology of the collection. However, just as importantly, the method of scanning – using a 3D laser scanner was also part of the experimental process. It was not known how well this method would work or what types of materials or shapes and colours/decorations would scan well.
Using a portable NextEngine 3D laser scanner, provided by the School of Computer Science, I carried out test scans on objects to learn how to use the machine. Once I felt comfortable with it, I began to choose objects from the collection.
The Bridges Collections spans several cultural periods of Cypriot Archaeology and I hoped to have representative scans from each of these – Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Byzantine. I found that terracotta objects with a contrasting painted decoration scanned very well. The collection holds several figurines which scanned beautifully including a halo plank figurine and a small anthropomorphic ornamental bell.
The Roman artefacts such as a small lamp and small bottles scanned well due to the nature of the material. The Byzantine collection of Sgraffiato Ware also scanned well, despite my concern that glazed objects would be too shiny for the lasers and therefore too reflective.
Each scan took anywhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour depending on the level of detail. For example, deeply carved objects such as a stone head took a great deal of time.
Each object also required at least 2 scans at different angles in order to capture the whole of the object, inside and out. What I discovered was that, the more scans required to complete an object, the larger the file, and consequently they became difficult to view online. The various scans for an object were then aligned together using virtual pins in the NextEngine software, Scanstudio.
Once ten objects were scanned, they were loaded into WebGL by the Open Virtual Worlds team and placed on the server so that I could create links to the images from the webpages I then created.
The experience of using the scanner was an interesting and challenging one. As one of several options for creating 3D models of objects it has proved that an object can be scanned in depth and that different angles can be scanned in order to provide a complete image. Unfortunately, the downside of this method of 3D scanning is that the files created are quite large and therefore, when it comes to placing them online, only the fastest and most up to date browsers will support the scans. The aim of accessibility was somewhat thwarted by this. However, it was successful in that clear images were created and the continuing work with various other methods of 3D modelling such as photogrammetry are proving to be more successful in providing ready access to virtual collections.
The scans can be viewed on the Bridges Collection website: https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/bridges-collection/