The entire collection of the British Museum will be 3D scanned.


The British Museum recently made a groundbreaking announcement: they are embarking on a remarkable project to digitize their entire collection. The British Museum is undoubtedly one of the most renowned museums in the world, housing an extensive array of historic artifacts from various corners of the globe. It is important to note, however, that some of these artifacts were obtained under contentious circumstances, but we will delve into that topic another time. Nevertheless, this institution safeguards priceless treasures such as the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, the Bust of Ramesses the Great, the Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs, and an extensive collection of Egyptian Mummies. A visit to the British Museum would require more than a day, as the current display only represents a fraction of their vast collection. However, the museum has now announced its intention to 3D scan every single artifact in its possession. The question arises: why would they embark on such an expensive endeavor?

The driving force behind this ambitious project is a simple need for backup. We may recall the tragedy that befell Brazil’s major museum, where a catastrophic fire in 2018 destroyed the entire building along with its priceless collection. Countless irreplaceable objects were lost forever. The British Museum, inspired by this unfortunate event, aims to ensure that a similar tragedy does not strike them. By scanning their entire collection, even if disaster were to strike, they would possess a digital replica of each artifact, preserving their cultural and historical value.

Another factor that has played a significant role in catalyzing this ambitious undertaking is a recent scandal that plagued the museum: a theft. It has come to light that a museum staff member managed to make off with up to 2,000 artifacts. These stolen treasures were likely sold or given away, never to be seen again. While the museum has been able to recover some of the stolen items, many remain lost forever. This scandal undoubtedly served as a wake-up call for the British Museum, prompting them to initiate the digitization project. In addition to ensuring better security and accountability, this endeavor will also facilitate a thorough inventory of the museum’s entire collection.

However, this project is not solely about insurance and security. It has the potential to present numerous opportunities for the public as well. One of these opportunities is granting digital access to parts of the collection. This approach could potentially address concerns from the original homes of many artifacts, which have long been demanding their repatriation. While whether this will succeed in the repatriation efforts is uncertain, if artifacts were to be returned, the British Museum would likely retain a digital copy. Furthermore, this endeavor opens up the exciting possibility of providing the public with access to 3D models of the artifacts. This would allow individuals with access to 3D printers to recreate their versions of these incredible historical pieces. Although the museum has not explicitly stated their plans for 3D models, Interim Director Mark Jones did mention their objective of improving and completing the online record of every object in the British Museum’s collection. This suggests that they will at least offer visual access to the 3D models, if not the models themselves. It is also conceivable that they may offer a selection of 3D models for public access, as a few other institutions have done.

Undoubtedly, this is a significant step forward, one that all museums should consider. The British Museum’s endeavor to digitize their entire collection demonstrates their commitment to preserving and sharing the world’s cultural heritage. Through this project, they aim to make their collection accessible to people all over the world, regardless of their geographic location. The potential applications of this digital resource are limitless, and it holds the promise of providing a myriad of educational and creative opportunities. Kudos to the British Museum for embarking on this remarkable project that will undoubtedly shape the future of museums.

Original source


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