3D-COFORM and its legacy
The research has been co-developed through the University of Brighton’s partnerships at local, national and international levels, from the Royal Pavilion and Museums Brighton and Hove and Sussex Archaeological Society, to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Germany) and the National History Museum of Brazil. By working directly with institutions, researchers have been able to respond to the rapidly changing environment of the museum and heritage sector. The method informed Brighton’s field-leading and influential EPOCH (2004-2008) and 3D-COFORM (2008-11), pan-European programmes that led to the consolidation of a new field of research in computer graphics for cultural heritage.
Recent international projects that built upon these include Pixel+ (2018-20), led by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, which has enabled 3D depth images to be reconstructed, creating a better-defined resource to utilise, study and preserve heritage materials. This allows professionals and the public to view centuries-old objects and reveal hidden details, making artefacts more accessible, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. This technology was used to study the figures in the 13th-century Rijmbijbel (the oldest preserved illustrated manuscript in the Dutch language), which led to the discovery that the heads of some of the figures were painted over at a later date. At The Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, the technology was used to make heavily weathered texts on almost 4,000-year-old Egyptian figurines readable again.
The European portal for Cultural Heritage, Europeana, has made provisions for the leading role these 3D technologies will play in education, research and the creative industries and in 2019-2020 established a taskforce with a cohort directly descended from the 3D-COFORM project, developing a framework and providing guidance on publishing 3D content for cultural institutions and other users. Their 3D ICONS project builds on the results of 3D-COFORM and has digitised architectural and archaeological masterpieces of world and European cultural significance providing over 1,000 3D models and related digital content.