Going 3D

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference or Event Name

Association of College and Research Libraries

Conference Location

Philadelphia, PA


In addition to published materials, academic libraries often curate special collections. Some of these collections contain three‐dimensional objects like statues, sports memorabilia, art, and cultural objects. This poster session will demonstrate how one library has used 360 degree digital imaging to provide access to such objects, including the equipment and process used to generate animated flash files, and ways to assess user satisfaction. At this library space is at a premium. 3D objects cannot be stored in a single location; instead, they are stored across campus in boxes, filing cabinets, vaults, shelves, and closets. This causes a delay of two days or more to accommodate requests for access. In addition, fragile objects require handling by personnel familiar with best practices. Valuable objects cannot be displayed publically due to a lack of adequate security. Staffing constraints and a shortage of exhibit space obliged us to restrict access to one researcher at a time. To help alleviate the issues of access, security, mishandling, and staffing, the library investigated the use of digitization.

A review of digital collections found that most collections have attempted to display different perspectives of 3D items with photographs of the front, back and interesting details. However, using this technique, viewers do not experience the dimensional aspects of the items. With the popularity of video games like the Wii and 3D virtual worlds like Second Life, users have become accustomed to interacting and exploring by electronic means. We wanted to provide researchers with the virtual experience of touching and examining the object from all angles with a digital facsimile they could manipulate.

Through our review, we learned a few museums, like the Smithsonian Institution, are using 360 degree imaging technology to render animated flash files of objects in their collections. This technology provided the interactive experience we wanted for our users, and revealed the dimensional perspectives of our objects.

Funding for specialized equipment came from a mini‐grant awarded from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services. Funded equipment included the Ortery Photocapture 360 Product Turntable, image creation software, a light kit, and a few backdrops. This computer controlled turntable and software automatically take and stitch pictures together to create animated GIF and flash files that can be included in existing digital collections. The software is easy to use, and our student assistants have quickly learned how to use the equipment.

There are various techniques for assessing the effectiveness of 360 degree digital imaging. Google analytics can be used to gather the number of on line visits to digital collections. Another method is counting the number of research requests. Finally, a user satisfaction survey would help identify areas of improvement and to measure overall satisfaction.