How about visiting the National Museum from the comfort of your sofa – on a flying carpet?

Virtual cultural experiences can be enjoyed anywhere and at any time. They also increase the overall consumption of culture, say the pioneers of 3D virtualisation.

When Finland entered the state of emergency in mid-March, all cultural institutions, from theatres to concert halls and museums, had to close their doors.

Fortunately, this does not have to mean abandoning culture.

On the Finnish National Museum's website and on YouTube, you can now admire 3D virtualisations ranging from the throne of Alexander I to a charming rococo suit and a nearly 200-year-old chimneyless hut. Many of the artefacts are extremely delicate or in poor condition, which is why they are usually locked up out of the reach of normal museum visits.

These 3D virtualisations demonstrate the skills of the MeMo Research Institute of Measuring and Modeling for the Built Environment.

‘We wanted to test out the suitability of the latest 3D technology for use in a museum context, so we applied our research-based expertise for the benefit of the museum. A shared goal was the digitalisation of the museum's collections,’ says Professor Hannu Hyyppä from Aalto University.

MeMo is a joint institute established by Aalto University and the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute of the National Land Survey. MeMo is the global leader in mobile laser scanning and its 3D studio is among the best in the world.

Its 3D virtualisations are created using a combination of laser scanning and photogrammetric photography. In laser scanning, measurement observations form a point cloud of an object's geometry, and this point cloud can be combined with colour values taken from photographs.

‘This gives us a precise model that our 3D artists then complete,’ explains Hannu Hyyppä.

Part of a larger 3D cultural project

In the virtual National Museum, the user can also soar over the building on a flying carpet and view, among other things, the staircases and floors of the handsome tower which is normally closed to visitors. 

The modeling is part of a larger 3D culture project in which the National Museum was one of the MeMo Institute’s partners. The aim of the recently completed project was to build a test platform for 3D and virtual technologies for the cultural sector. Over the years, MeMo experts have, among other things, enriched art exhibitions and theatre with augmented reality, actively participated in the children's art festival Kutitus (Tickle), and created together with Svenska Yle the world's first virtual play, which took place in the Lapinlahti Hospital during Helsinki Festival.

Last year, MeMo was awarded the first national Open Science Award. The justifications for the award included the promotion of interaction between research and society, the openness of research results and the packaging of science into a form that serves society's needs. The research team was also praised for reaching the general public through various exhibitions and events.

One of the benefits of virtual cultural experiences is that they are independent of time and place – instead of driving 500km to see an interesting exhibition, you can enjoy it from your own sofa. We strongly believe that this also leads to an increase in the overall consumption of culture,’ says science producer Marika Ahlavuo.

This story is the first part of a series that presents the cultural opportunities offered by 3D technology. Follow Aalto's website and social media – the next instalment will be arriving close to summer!

Further information:

Science Producer Marika Ahlavuo, Master of Culture and Arts
The Research Institute of Measuring and Modeling for the Built Environment (MeMo),
Aalto University School of Engineering, Department of Built Environment
Tel. +358 50 512 2509
[email protected]

3D Studio Manager Matti Kurkela, Licentiate of Science (Technology)
Aalto University School of Engineering, 3D Studio, Department of Built Environment
[email protected]

Professor Hannu Hyyppä
The Research Institute of Measuring and Modeling for the Built Environment (MeMo),
Aalto University School of Engineering, Department of Built Environment
[email protected]

Hanna Forssell, Head of Public Programmes
National Museum
[email protected]

See also:

Hannu Hyyppä, the researchers’ voice:Science for the whole of society

When a cultural destination is destroyed, a 3D digital archive helps with reconstruction (in Finnish)

Laser scanning the 3D world

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