The 'BEST' 3D scanning setup for a museum

I recently got asked:

Q: If money was no object, what off the shelf 3D scanning setup would you buy for a museum?

Below is the ‘off the top of my head’ reply I gave. What have I left or got wrong in this answer? Please reply to this thread with suggestions!

A: Not a simple question to answer but I’ll do my best :slight_smile: a lot depends on your use case and audience but I will assume you want to make archival quality 3D for the museum’s internal audience (curators, researchers, etc.) as well as optimised 3D ready for public audiences online or in-gallery.

I tried to cover a lot of this in my work on too if you’ve not explored that already.

For general purpose 3D digitization (small to large objects, various materials) I would suggest a combination of workflows:

1. Photogrammetry for general use and the ‘best looking’ results. Gear = whatever cameras your photography team uses processed using Reality Capture running on a beefy PC: 64GB RAM, fastest processors, newest+best graphics cards from Nvidia.

2. Structured light scanning for small to medium sized objects where accuracy is a key factor in the use case, something like the Artec Eva

3. Laser scanning for big/huge objects + spaces, again useful for accurate, measurable results. I have no experience here but always liked the look of the Leica BLK; there are likely more commonly used laser scanners out there.

(BONUS, for the sake of completeness) 4. For really small / detailed / anatomical (or anything when you want to scan internal as well as external detail) Micro-CT or CT scanning is an (expensive) option. (Thanks to Terrie Simmons-Ehrhardt on twitter for flagging this omission)

Using the above you can get the ‘best’ geometry/3D forms with laser + structured light and then combine that with photogrammetry scans for the ‘best’ image texturing. All depends on your use case of course.

I would also factor in at least one dedicated 3D digitisation expert staff member and another 3D modelling expert for the best outputs. A dedicated 3D digitisation space as well as kit for a mobile digitisation suite would also aid the speed and repeatability of digitisation workflows.

I like Małopolska Museums’ approach to staff teams for digitisation, publication + interpretation for 3D; the National Natural History Museum of Santiago, Chile has posted some really nice 3D combining structured light + photogrammetry data; I also really like the work of Historic Environments Scotland + the Scottish Maritime Museum both of whom use various digitisation + modelling techniques to great effect.


Great summary, thanks…
I will surely use this as a reference when starting projects with new institutions.

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I will refer to this as a very comprehensive summary.

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I’d add a beefy and capacious RAID storage array, configured for access, redundancy and backup. Backup would be both on site for swift access and off-site for safety. If money was no object, an off-site RAID (e.g. Synology RackStation) solution that mirrors the main server, which also backs up to Amazon Glacier.

Data safety is as important as data acquisition.

For some reason hasn’t hit my radar, so I’ll take a look.

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We’ll be interested in any feedback on you might have - I am aware that it is missing a section on data security / sustainability so your comments are welcome especially on this topic :pray:

If budget is not a problem - software included - for 3 (large spaces & exhibitions) I would recommend the new NavVis VLX:

Unfortunately only available in german, an article how it´s used at the Deutsches Museum:

A much cheaper alternative is (MP), but comes with the major disadvantage of copyright loss (see MP legals), which in europe is a major problem for many organisations and companies.

Nevertheless, I have learned that renting the right equipment for the job is the best approach, as the answer to “what´s best for” is always “depends”.

Fraunhofer has also some offers for object scanning:

Other resources I recommend:

I would love to see setups with minimum possible budget, but a defined minimum quality standard, which is acceptable for museums and their use cases. E.g. a 500 MB pointcloud is maybe fine for research purposes, but will not fit for the use of museum marketing or public sharing. A german example: