3D capture of historic costumes at Helston Museum, Cornwall

Sign reading "3D scanning project. Thanks to Cornwall Museum Partnership with funding from Arts Council England we are learning how to 3D scan our collection"In December 2017 I was asked by Helston Museum to train staff and volunteers in how to use photogrammetry to record their historic costume collection in 3D. The costume gallery had closed and become a much-needed storage area. They decided that online 3D models, and possibly through screens in the museum, would be an interesting and engaging way to present the costumes now in the museum stores. They could record and display many more than there has ever been physical gallery space for.

The best way to capture the costumes is, of course, to use a mannequin. This would allow the costume to be viewed in the way it would have been worn, and rotated and viewed from any angle, an advantage over traditional static photographs. They would use Sketchfab to display the results.

Helston Museum decided to try the project in a very public way. Training was conducted in their temporary exhibition space, with panels explaining what was going on to the public. Projectors were used to display the results, as they happened. Staff and myself were on-hand to answer any questions from the public.

Over the course of a week, I trained both permanent staff, the Director and Assistant Curator, as well as a group of volunteers. They were shown how to light the mannequins, how to photograph them for 3D photogrammetry, and how to process and clean the 3D data on one of the museum’s existing PCs.

A volunteer photographs the dressed mannequin from every angle to ensure good coverage for photogrammetry
A volunteer photographs the dressed mannequin from every angle to ensure good coverage for photogrammetry

Some volunteers were more interested in photography, others in costume handling, and others in data processing and editing. I worked with their strengths, and the museum now have a great team to take the project on themselves. I remain available for questions from the team, and hope to teach some more advanced methods as they gain experience and confidence with 3D digitisation.

Helston Museum are Cornwall’s first museum to create a Sketchfab account, where they will share the results of this ongoing project. Visit Helston Museum on Sketchfab.