Using LOD to integrate 3D models into the cultural heritage cloud

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In recent years, the lowered cost of 3D capture (photogrammetric software, processing power, availability of drones, etc.) has led to an explosion of 3D models within the cultural heritage sector. These models range from artifacts to architecture to archaeological excavations (trenches and full sites), and are produced by GLAM organizations themselves or often by individuals visiting museums. Some content producers rely on commercial entities such as Sketchfab for publication, and others are attempting to build 3D dissemination into their institutional repositories. I have been critical of these efforts, not because I disagree with their value, but because so many entities have moved forward with mass production before considering long-term preservation and access. Presently, 3D data integration into the wider CH cloud suffers from the following:

  • No agreed-upon standard for the model and texture files themselves (obj is the closest thing)
  • No standard for technical metadata
  • No standard for annotation of features in three dimensions
  • No standard APIs to rely on for getting the files or analyzing them in some capacity

I have begun to experiment with a proof of concept integration of 3D models from Sketchfab into a few Linked Open Data projects, namely extending the data model with a proposed Europeana Data Model extension for 3D that was presented at ALA. As part of the proof of concept, two models of coins were incorporated into Online Coins of the Roman Empire (see for example), and you can read more about the entire process here.

I myself am not a content producer, but a middleman developer attempting to build a bridge between content producers and the scholars (and general public) that will ultimately make use of these materials. A scholar will not go to every possible Sketchfab profile or institutional repository to dig around for 3D models of relevant artifacts–they should expect to find them in portals for specific materials (like Roman imperial coins or Greek pottery) or through broader aggregations like Europeana and DPLA.

Following the success of the IIIF spec and the community behind it, I hope that we can take some time at LODLAM to discuss laying the foundation for a similar community that might bring order to the chaos of 3D cultural heritage models.

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