How hard is it to 3D scan a lightbulb? Part 1

Last year whilst curating the temporary Digital Frontiers exhibition in the brilliant Octagon gallery at UCL, both myself and Nick Booth (UCL curator of the science and engineering collections) became a bit obsessed with light bulbs.  From this slightly odd obsession, and thanks to a kind research grant from the Institute of Making, Nick and I get to play with light bulbs and call it research.

We’re looking at the process of materials and making using 3D scanning and printing to see if creating new objects encourages a closer inspection and deeper understanding of historical objects – in our case light bulbs.  Neither Nick nor I claim to experts in 3D scanning museum objects, we wanted to see what we could do with the bare minimum of training on the devices.  How easy is it for a relatively normal person to scan and print museum objects.

Firstly we played with 3D scanning.   In the next blog post I’ll talk about the process of 3D printing.

We wanted to look at different ways we could scan and create a 3D mesh of a light bulb.  We have tried two main ways of scanning, firstly using easily accessible and relatively cheap (in this case free) technology using 123D Catch and then having a go with a NextEngine.

123D Catch is a free application from Autodesk that enables you to take a series of photos and turn them into 3D models.  We used the handy iPhone app.  It works by taking multiple digital photos that have been shot around a stationary object and then submitting those photos to a cloud based server for processing.  The images are then stitched together to produce a 3D model.

NextEngine is a desktop 3D scanner which captures 3D objects in full colour with multi-laser precision.

We knew a light bulb wasn’t going to be easy to scan because scanners don’t tend to like transparent, shiny or mirrored objects.  But we thought we’d have a go anyway.

Scanning transparent objects in practice

Before we experimented with some of the historical science and engineering collection, we used a normal every day bulb to see what worked and didn’t.

Firstly 123D catch

And now NextEngine

IMG_8366

As you can see the fitting shows up pretty well, but the glass bulb itself really doesn’t work.  And 123D Catch has gone completely funny.  So after a bit of googling, tweeting and advice from the 3D pros at UCL we decided to try and disguise the transparency with talcum powder.

So here are the versions with talc.

123D catch

NextEngine

IMG_8377

Which amazingly worked!

After checking with conservation and we decided to cover the historical lightbulb in talc and try scanning that and here are the results:

123D catch

NextEngine

IMG_8450

The NextEngine scan is pretty good. It doesn’t quite capture the peak at the top of the bulb, but it isn’t a bad representation.  I don’t think we can quite call it a replica but it definitely looks like a lightbulb.

Obviously covering a hisitorical object in talc throws a lot of questions up about how museums could utilise 3D scanning if they have to cover delicate and fragile glass objects in powder to get a adequate scan. We’d be really interested to hear if anyone has found a more conservation friendly way of dealing with transparent objects without having to coat them in talc.

It also brings up questions about how accurate 3D representations of museum objects should be.  Should they be identical? Or is an approximate object acceptable?

SMKE workshop: Social Media and the Museum

SMKElogo-370x100Yesterday as part of the Social Media Knowledge Exchange project, UCLDH hosted  a workshop on  Social Media and the Museum.It was targeted specifically at doctoral students and early career researchers.

The general workshop theme: how Social Media is changing museum practice and visitor experience; and how Social Media can be integrated into museum exhibitions and events.

Its not news to most of us that museums are embracing social media and use it as a means to communicate and promote their activities, and also to interact and engage with their visitors.  A large number of museums now have a profile on social media sites to post news, promote their exhibitions & events, or disseminate their content; and also to  to interact with visitors by starting conversations, debates and organise participatory projects.   This in itself is brilliant.  But what is less well understood from an academic and a museum professional perspective is the key questions and challenges that are arising out of the use of social media.

Some of the key (well most obvious at least) questions the workshop tried to address were:

  • how do we engage visitors and encourage users of the collections to build an online community?
  • how do we start conversations with visitors in such a way that they feel that it is appropriate for non-experts to contribute?
  • how do we create a feeling of ownership of museum collections amongst the visitors and users?
  • What does this type of social engagement mean for the museum experience?
  • How do we evaluate the impact of social media?

These questions came up throughout the day, and naturally more questions came out of that than answers.

There was a range of talks by academic and museum professionals to discuss how Social Media is changing museum practice and visitor experience:

Social Media in the Humanities: Claire Warwick (UCL)

Claire spoke using social media as a different way to engage people with historical content. The focus of Claire’s talk was around the D-Day as it happens initiative led by Channel 4. Utilising Twitter as a different way of presenting oral history.  Suggesting that social media offers a sense of engagement which is very different to reading from history books. Providing a sense of immediacy. The personification of history.  Claire highlighted how social media allows contemporary voices to be heard, but it can also bring historical figures and events to life. Throughout her talk interesting questions were raised about physicality, immersive theatre and emotional engagement with historical events and how social media can be involved in all three.  In essence are historical figures tweeting in the social media space in the same genre as live interpretation in the museum space?

There has been a lot of discussion about what museums can learn from immersive theatre lately.  See Seb Chan’s post on Fresh & New(er) of 23 May 2012. “What if we made ‘wonderment’ our Key Performance Indicator?” and Ed Rodley’s post, http://exhibitdev.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/on-immersion-theatre-and-museums/  and Suse Cairns Rethinking why immersive theatre is compelling. It might not be the immersion after all and I think this is something which will need to be explored further.


Tweeting Moles? Social Media from the Grant Museum: Mark Carnall (Grant Museum)

Mark Carnall, curator from the Grant Museum spoke about their strategic use of social media.  Mark explained that Social media in the museum is a continually changing landscape and questioned how do/should/could museums manage this evolution.

The Grant Museum uses social media in 4 key ways:

  1. Twitter- transitory, irreverent, topical
  2. Facebook – badges and postcards
  3. Blogs- long form, publication, cv
  4. Flickr, YouTube and others – hosting tool.

Mark really hit home the need to think strategically. Museums shouldn’t use social media for social medias sake. There is a need to make time to fit social media into working practice.

Mark also raised some social media issues for museums to think about:

  • Is there an institutional format you should adopt?
  • Institutional buy in and support
  • Get image crediting right.
  • What voice will you use?
  • Dealing with the digital divide. Who is your audience? Social media doesn’t reach everyone. – in reality the people who aren’t using social media are people the museum most wants to reach
  • Sustainability: Social media in museums need to be sustainable and you need to be prepared for infrequently of returns because they aren’t always apparent instantly.

Mark also shared this brilliant infographic from informationisbeautiful.net: Hierarchy of digital distractions.

1276_hierarchy_of_digital_distractions


Social media: worth the time for small museums?: Alex Smith (Islington Museum)

Alex Smith from Islington Museum gave a great example of how small museums can blog, tweet and use social media as a knowledge experience with limited time and budget highlighting the benefits as well as the reasons why small museums show become involved in social media activities.   Alex started by highlighting that the Islington Museum is constrained by council ICT strategy/guidelines and how council museums have to think outside the box to deal with this adequately.

Islington Museum use social media tools in the following ways:

  • Facebook
    • Events management system
    • Sharing Photos
    • Timeline – Ambitious use of Facebook timeline as a general historic timeline of objects and events relating to Islington Museum
    • Community engagement
    • Building brand identity
    • Twitter
      • Discus things that are happening now at the museum
      • Hashtags – the example of the Joe Orton Trial Reconstruction
      • Time management – hootsuite helps schedule and organise tweets
      • Conversations and praise –  Alex says the power of anecdotal evidence as well as statistics helps with convincing management.  Bite sized chunks from socmedia
      • Blogging
        • Example of the Sadlers Wells Theatre Archive blog
        • Found that visitors do interact
        • Important to get time management right
        • Historypin
          • New for the museum
          • Easy for people to use museum images
          • Builds a community of interest
          • Supports our current activities

Collecting Social Media as a museum object: Laura Lannin & Ellie Miles (Museum of London)

Ellie Miles and Larua Lannin from the Museum of London, gave a really interesting talk about the citizen curators project and what they have discovered about trying to collect social media as a museum object.  I attended an event at the Museum of London about collecting social media earlier in the year (My post on the Museum of London social media event: can a museum collect tweets & should it? ) so it was great to continue the conversation.

The Museum of London’s main aim is to be a contemporary collector of objects, events and ideas from and about the city of London, and because of this contemporary collecting policy they began to think about digital capture of events in London quite early on. They now have the experimental role of a digital curator which aims to develop fresh ways of collecting contemporary digital culture.

One of their projects is #citizencurators – a social networking project for London2012.  It’s a great  project and it has some really interesting research questions which you can see at http://t.co/g4NNg9zoMS

Production/consumption – museum social media in use: Daniel Pett (British Museum)

Daniel Pett (Portable Antiquities Scheme) gave a mesmerising talk about production and consumption of social media.  Dan’s key message was to ensure that any social media activity in museums needs to be relevant.  Important to have a social media museum strategy and to think about issues like:

  • Who is ultimately responsible for social media content
  • How do museums create interesting social media content? Who decides what is appropriate?
  • How seriously does the institution take social media channels – who are the advocates and for what?
  • Do you have institutional buy in?
  • Impact of social media in museums. can you measure interactions? Is the engagement meaningful? Are stats enough?
  • Multi-vocality. Everyone can have a voice. How do you deal with that?
  • Does anyone in your organisation already have useful social media skills, can you utilise them?
  • Adequate time management
  • Moderation
  • Who is the target audience?

Dan then went on to discuss consuming social media as code and gave some really useful ways that utilising the right code can make archiving and optimising social media a piece of cake.  Check out Dan’s google drive presentation for some great info on how to consume and produce social media using some simple coding.

The rest of the Social Media and the Museum session was a bit more hands on.  We went to see Jeremy Bentham and discussed Transcribe Bentham and the The Bentham Pop-up, which waspowered by QRator, and posed a set of Bentham-esq questions to visitors.  From there we went to have a look at my Digital Frontiers exhibition and asked question about the challenges and benefits of utilising all digital interpretation and social media inside a museum space.   Finally Mark Carnall led a great social media challenge and asked us to work in teams to come up with how we would respond to different social media comments from the public.  It really hit home some of the issues you have to think about when dealing with social media responses.

A really great day full of interesting discussions.

Notes on Ross Parry’s Presentation: The end of the beginning: Normativity in the postdigital museum

Final set of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.  Ross’s talks always inspire and make me feel very insignificant in terms of theory in equal measure.

Ross Parry: The end of the beginning: Normativity in the postdigital museum

  • Based on new research into how 6 UK national museums
  • Are 6 national museums showing a national trend? Or just highlighting that those with money can play more?
  • naturalise ‘digital’ into their overall museum vision
  • Digital being naturalised within the museum…
  • 1980 paisley institute fox communication research- the museum in 1980
  • Connected museum
  • Normative
  • The duality of technology rethinking the concept of tech in organisations
  • Wanda Orlikowski – dynamic relations between information technologies and organizations over time
  • Has digital in museums become normative?
  • Structures of domination, structures of legitimisation, structures of signification.
  • Digital as a recurring motif
  • Digital being naturalised within the Museums vision and articulation of itself – once limited information on digital, forced to highlight ‘digital’ in strategies, organisational structures and projects has evolved to being incporated throughout.
  • A preparedness for a post digital org structure
  • Actively recruiting blended roles
  • The presence of digital thinking
  • Digital being part of the generative and ideation moment
  • Blended production
  • Strategising for a multiplatform future
  • No need for digital to be strategised separately.
  • post-digital museum is one where digital technology has become transparent: it has become so permeated into everyday activities that we no longer reflect upon or feel challenged by its digital character.  Personally I don’t think this is true in the practical and operational issues of museums.  It might resonate in Digital departments, but not throughout the whole of the museum.
  • What does post digital stance have for how we situate research?

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: Notes 4

4th  post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

Rolf Steier and Palmyre Pierroux: Social Media and Interaction Design in Art Museums

  • InterMedia, University of Oslo
  • The role of the affordances of social media and visitor contributions in museums.
  • CONTACT project, exploring the design of digital resources and social media to engage visitors with the work of Edvard Munch
  • The ‘Myself’ interactive:  Pose like munch to recreate his self-portrait.
  • Pose, photograph, caption and share their photos on Flickr stream.
  • I love the In-gallery social interaction with social media element in Munch
  • What is the role of social media in interactive activities in museums?
  • Interaction Analysis Ferry et al 2010, Jordan and Henderson 1987
  • Visitor or Museum controlled content?
  • Perception of content ownership

Rosie Cardiff: Tate Visitor Generated Content

  • By 2015 Tate want to be more open and receptive to ideas and debate; diverse range of voices
  • Vistor generated content has formed part of Tate’s core strategy to be more open and diverse
  • VGC projects at Tate go back to 2000
  • But does inviting VGC really help fulfil institutional aims?
  • How do we measure success in terms of VGC? Numbers, quality, debate, what?
  • number; diversity of voices; quality; evidence of debate; numbers visiting physical tate?
  • The value of measurement of VGC
  • Motivation of visitors – what do visitors expect when they contribute?
  • kids project, tate tales, run from 2004-present. what did kids in 2004 expect for 9 years in the future?
  • visitor expectation – How long should VGC remain active. Days, weeks, months, years?
  • What do the visitors expect to happen to their contribution after they have taken part?
  • would you expect something you wrote in a museum as a child to be around now you’re an adult?
  • If we use Flickr are we saying, We don’t want it on our actual website?
  • Planning for archiving and maintaining content beyond lifetime of project
  • From Rosie’s Abstract: “Over the years, Tate has consistently underestimated the amount of time and money it takes to manage and moderate projects of this kind. The volume of user generated content we host is continually increasing and at some point we have to ask ourselves, what are we going to do with this content? Has it served its purpose? Will we end up simply deleting it?”

La Sapienza: Open Museum: VGC as an emerging solution to a design challenge and Before VGC: user experience research as a key methodology for the development of digital interactive services within museal context

  • mobile Pass: smoother transition between activities  inside and outside the Museum;
  • VGC available around the City.
  • Projecting artworks onto museum facades to invite people to visit and discover more
  • Highlighting what visitors are seeing & doing inside the museum projected onto the facade of the museum outside
  • User Centered Design Perspective.
  • UCD user ethnographic map (uem)

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 3 Social Interpretation and QRator

3rd  post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

My Notes on both Jeremy’s and Jack’s presentations are brief as I know both projects pretty much inside out.

Jeremy Ottenvanger – Inbound Communications as a catalyst for organisational change

  • A tale of two fiefdoms- who is responsible for responding to VGC
  • Characterising online contributions:
  • personal: emotional, opinion, personal information, anecdotes, family history
  • requests and queries: object info, valuation, family history, digitisation and licencing, offering material, access, history, general/website
  • informational: new information, corrections
  • online comments tend to be more thoughtful than in-gallery comments online commenters have sought out the content, so already have a deeper engagement with those specific items, rather than just coming across them while moving through the physical gallery.
  • important issue of sustainability of VGC. How do museums resource it in the long term?
  • IWM trying to find an internal workflow that was appropriately responsive to online comments
  • A gap between two departments – collections access and digital media
  • Sources of value:
  • External mission value- giving people what they want
  • Engagement through UGC contribution
  • Internal mission value- strengthening the missions values
  • Shaping future services
  • IWM don’t have a plan. Yet.

Jack Ashby: The Grant Museum and QRator

  • A turtle is a turtle. That’s a fact. How can visitors participate in Natural History Museums
  • For the Grant Museum the act of participation isn’t enough. It has to have a more in depth levels.
  • Are museum visitors unwitting guinea pigs?
  • allowing content to go live post-moderated
  • Both Areti and Jack raised issues about the subjective nature of moderating VGC.

New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: 2 Areti Galani and My Great North Run

2nd post of Notes from ‘The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC’ conference at Leicester’s school of Museum Studies, part of the AHRC-funded iSay project focusing on Visitor-Generated Content (VGC) in cultural heritage institutions.

Areti Galani and Rachel Clarke: “Run mummy run”: negotiating communicative tensions in the design and use of digital installations that facilitate visitor-generated content in public exhibitions

I met Areti a couple of years ago at Museums and the Web 2011 where she was demonstrating some of the technology used in My Great North Run by Newcastle university’s culture lab and GNM_Hancock.  Not only because it is set in my home town, and in my favourite museum but because I love how the project mixed up the nature of digital and analogue technologies.  It was an interactive museum installation designed to extend visitor participation through personal reflection and contribution and combined three kinds of interaction: touchscreens, digital pens and a website. During this presentation I was really shocked by the amount of contributions that were rejected during the moderation process.

  • Can interactivity antagonise participation?
  • How can accessible technology lead to inaccessible participation paradigms?
  • My Great North Run – 2. Contribution routes and multiple contribution forms
  • C.60000 in gallery users
  • 13,000 contributions in 93 days
  • 53 online contributions- all published
  • difference between quality of the visitor contributions in-gallery vs online (though of course ‘quality’ is a highly subjective term)
  • Balance between what is considered meaningful curated content with more open social network platforms that encourage active participation.
  • 93% rejected contributions! What moderation system was used?  8% of which made it through the moderation process and became part of the exhibition.
  • Could building in some delay in the process of contributing in-gallery lead to better quality contributions?
  • Will a doodle ever become a contribution? Why do we always assume that a textual visitor contribution is better and of a higher quality and therefore more relevant?
  • The novelty of the technology: ‘pen-happy visitors’ used the technology for the sake of interacting but didn’t know what to do after picked up the pen.
  • When does a contribution become part of the narrative?
  • Many interrelated emerging narratives
  • Temporary co-existence with museum narratives of celebration.
  • Empathetic, situated, embedded
  • 3 communicative tensions present in digital installations that encourage visitors to generate and contribute content in exhibitions:
  1. how lowering the barriers to participation through technological decisions may affect the quality of the contributed content as well as the experience of the contributors;
  2. how the tension between the curatorial desire to enable user-participation while maintaining a coherent and aesthetically consistent curatorial narrative is un/resolved
  3. how visitors negotiate the ‘private’ and the ‘public’ when contributing content.

Key Point to consider: Digitally-mediated participatory installations continue to occupy the ambiguous space between audience engagement and exhibition interpretation, with an impact on both how visitor-generated content is collected and archived by institutions and also how displays facilitating visitor-generated content fit with exhibition designs.