3D website from Petrie Museum of Egyptology gives unparalleled access to its collection

By Robin Valentine | 27 May 2014 | Updated: 27 April 2014

Ancient Egyptian archaeology artefacts are brought to life in a new 3D website developed by the Petrie Museum at University College London

A D image of the head of a male with a beard
The head cover for a Mummy is among the fascinating objects brought to life in the 3D Petrie Museum© Petrie Museum UCL
As the British Museum digitally unwraps some of its finest mummies using the latest 3D technology, The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archeology at UCL, which contains one of the largest collections of its type in the world, has launched its own interactive online library of its exhibits.

Advanced 3D images give users the opportunity to virtually examine and ‘handle’ the ancient Egyptian artefacts thanks to a combination of photography and cutting-edge scanning and imaging technology.

The resulting 3D models, which have been developed by the Petrie’s in house 3D team, are accurate to a level of detail not normally visible with the naked eye.

Tonya Nelson, Head of Museums and Collections, said the aim of the 3D imaging programme was “to allow visitors to see the artefacts in ways not possible in traditional museum displays”.

“The 3D image library gives online visitors the type of access only curators have.”

This curatorial access comes courtesy of a cutting edge combination of reference photography and 3D imaging, together with a curatorial review of the actual object to its digital counterpart. 

Exhibits currently on display online include an amulet depicting the eye of the god Horus, a ‘Shabti’ funerary figurine and a mummy’s ornate decorative foot-covering.

The project is the latest in a series of 3D projects for the museum, which began exploring how digitisation could improve access to collections back in 2009 with a collaboration involving the UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering and business partner Arius 3D.

Previous projects include an ‘augmented reality’ application for iPads called ‘Tour of the Nile’.

The museum plans to expand the current web project with a section giving visitors an interactive tour of the history of each artefact.

They are also looking to share their methodology with other museums, encouraging digitisation, "end user 3D digital applications" and increased accessibility to collections.

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