Emotions3D is a 2016 Associate Investigator project with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (1100-1800), which addresses issues surrounding authenticity in digital visualisation; emotional materiality; curating cultural heritage; experiential, object-based or kinaesthetic learning; and online public outreach for museums.

Outcomes of the project include the creation of an online digital heritage resource ‘Emotions3D: Bringing Digital Cultural Heritage to Life’, as well as research articles which address the themes outlined above. The project is partially funded under the Associate Investigator grant scheme, which allowed lead investigator, Jane-Heloise Nancarrow, to travel to the United Kingdom to work with participating museums in January 2016.

You can find out more about the project in these media releases.

Aims of the project

  • To generate medieval and early modern digital cultural heritage assets as a direct response to current scarcity in the online availability of assets from this period;
  • To learn photogrammetry processing techniques from a research and experiential perspective;
  • To gain experience working with museums and developing content for a public audience;
  • To conduct research on emotional and affective engagement with digital heritage objects;
  • To experiment with online and digital curation formats;
  • To explore digital and 3D technologies from a kinaesthetic and tactile learning standpoint.

    Dr Jane-Heloise Nancarrow photographs objects in the collection at the Stirling Smith Museum and Gallery, Stirling, Scotland.

Project timeline

August-September 2015:
Worked with curatorial staff at four UK museums to select objects for the Emotions3D collection.

January – February 2016:
Travelled to the UK to gather photographic data to generate models.

March – August 2016:
Processed digital images to create photogrammetric visualisations.

April 2016:
Guest blog post
for ‘Histories of Emotion’ blogroll.

June – November 2016:
Convened the Emotions3D research group to discuss emotional biography content (see below).

August – November 2016:
Uploaded digital modelling to online model host, Sketchfab.

October – November 2016:
Built Emotions3D website.

December 2016:
Website launch event.

Research collaborators

The Emotions3D researchers were invited to contribute to the project according to their expertise relating to the objects in the collection. This project would not have been possible without their efforts:

Michelle Bunting: Japanese Netsuke
Courtnay Koshuh: Alfred the Great coin
Alicia Marchant: Puzzle Jug
Joanne McEwan: World’s oldest football
Jo Merrey: Child’s prosthesis
Stephanie Tarbin: Teething toy with whistle
Joanna Tyler: Stirling Burgh Box
Stephanie Tarbin: Perfume Burner; Ivory knife handle
Bob Weston: Amputation saw; Trepanning dummy
Colin Yeo: Keats’ ‘Anatomy of Melancholy’

Museum partners

Victoria and Albert Museum
Staff at the Metalwork and Ceramics collection, especially Rachel Church and Angus Patterson

Stirling Smith Museum and Gallery
The entire team at the Stirling Smith, particularly collections curator, Michael McGuiness.

Keats’ House
Staff at Keats’ House, particularly Frankie Kubicki.

St Bart’s Hospital Museum and Archive
Archivists Kate Jarman and Rachael Merrison.

Photogrammetry process

This type of 3D capture is comparable to the quality of laser scanning for the smaller cultural heritage items in the Emotions3D collection. Photogrammetric models such as these are built in stages using a series of around 100-200 photographs. Like all 3D modelling, photogrammetry requires considerable processing and post-processing to ensure models are an accurate representation of the original artefact.

The 3D models in this collection were created using Agisoft Photoscan software according to a relatively straightforward build workflow (see image):

  1. Sparse point cloud aligned from two or more photographic images.
  2. Dense point cloud, which is then filled out along vertext points to create a…
  3. 3D mesh, over which is applied…
  4. Photo realistic texture to create a digital replica of the original artefact, complete with surface colour and detail.


This photorealistic texture is the advantage that this 3D modelling method has over other recording techniques for the accurate or detailed study of cultural heritage objects. This type of modelling has become available for use on a mass-scale within the past few years, but it does have some limitations.

The quality of the models depends largely on the initial skills of the photographer. This requires attention and practice museum settings with different environmental conditions, variable lighting and facilities. Once you’ve captured image data, photogrammetry software is sensitive to additional issues which prevent it from triangulating original camera positions. These include reflections and shiny surfaces, delicate and repetitive patterns, poor colour variation, and minute, fine parts.

Working brief for researchers

The Emotions3D group met several times in 2016, and were asked to produce ’emotional biographies’ according to the brief below:

  • Tailor content to excite an upper-primary to lower-secondary audience;
  • Introduce the context of discovery/ museum collection;
  • Describe the material and cultural properties of the object, with particular emphasis on interesting features which are accessed or enhanced by 3D viewing;
  • Explore the emotional or affective resonances of each object; by the person who made it, the person who used it, the person who (re) discovered it;
  • Include supplementary primary source material – literary sources/passages; documentary accounts; images, paintings or cartoons; music or sounds; hashtags;
  • Think carefully about how each object relate to other objects in the collection (focus on emotional resonances, unusual connections, establishing context);
  • Incoporate the idea of ‘4D modelling’ where the fourth dimension is time – how do emotional  responses to these objects change over time?;
  • Try to formulate and understanding of how people might react to the digital object today, invite submissions in the comments section;
  • Create 5-7 annotations to specific parts of the model, relating to its material or emotional history.

For more information about the project, please contact us.