3D scanning and presentation of ethnographic collections – potentials and challenges

David Arnold, Jaime Kaminski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The preservation, study, and presentation of collections continues to be a fundamental remit of museums, yet each of these core activities has been changed by the development of information and communication technologies (ICT). These technological developments have been matched by an evolution of the public’s interest in cultural heritage. Within the broad arena of ICT, 3D documentation can play an important role in the documentation, research, and dissemination of ethnographic collections. 3D has a specific resonance with ethnographic museum collections because the organic fabric and fragile nature of many ethnographic artefacts can make them particularly susceptible to degradation or even destruction in human and natural disasters. To counter this, there is increasing recognition of the benefit of recording artefacts to offset the risks and provide a record for future generations. This motivation is reinforced by public expectations for more information and presentation with innovative digital media, as well as countering, subject to necessary permissions, potential loss of access to the increasing number of ethnographic objects that are being repatriated to their place of origin. In this article we consider why 3D documentation is relevant to ethnographic collections, the tools and techniques that can be used to create 3D collections, and the future opportunities and challenges for 3D.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-97
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Museum Ethnography
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2014


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