In June 2019, the Cleveland Museum of Art’s (CMA) iterative, rotating gallery, ArtLens Exhibition, reopened with 21 new artworks, including 15 3-D objects, from across the museum’s permanent collection. For each 3–D object in the space, a gesture-based 3–D viewer was added to the ArtLens Exhibition’s existing touch-free, motion-sensing interactives. This allows visitors to zoom and manipulate projected 3-D models to see all angles of an object. These 3–D models are also available to visitors via the museum’s Collection Online, and in Sketchfab extending the benefit of this explorative tool beyond the museum’s walls. Through CMA’s Open Access Initiative, all public domain models are published with a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which offers access to our 3–D models for any purpose, including reproduction with 3-D printers, so that the modeled objects can be reused, remixed, and reproduced in any format, all without asking permission or giving attribution.
This project is an extension of the goals of ARTLENS; to remove barriers to entry and invite visitors from all backgrounds to connect with the collection in meaningful ways. By allowing interaction with these objects outside of the display case, we are offering visitors opportunity to explore artworks in the collection like never before – digitally maneuvering them to see the tops, bottoms, and insides while discovering details that would otherwise be hidden.
CMA’s 3-D models were created in–house using photogrammetry, a method that combines photographic imaging with the metrics of scale to map the surface details of an object onto a 3–D model. The process is complex, requiring numerous, overlapping photos to be precisely documented and digitally woven together. To fill the ArtLens Exhibition CMA selected an array of objects, at varying sizes and levels of complexity. In the process of documenting certain artworks, we discovered the challenge and lack of precedent for effectively capturing reflective and intricately detailed objects. To conquer the particularly challenging objects CMA worked with Dale Utt, of True Edge Archive, a photogrammetry specialist who works mainly with medieval armor.
Since the release of the models in summer 2019, we have seen high levels of engagement from the public both on-site in the ArtLens Exhibition, and in our online collection. CMA’s 3-D models are hosted on Sketchfab, an online platform that hosts content from millions of creators, opening access to the broadest possible audience. CMA is continuing to experiment in the world of photogrammetry. In addition to the 15 models created for the summer 2019 launch of the ARTLENS Gallery, there are now 12 additional models available to visitors via the museum’s Collection Online. We plan to continue expanding our collection of 3-D models and add to this initiative in the future.
Special thanks on this project go to Howard Agriesti, chief photographer at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Dale Utt of True Edge Archive.