The digital archive of the future

The 3D Digital Archive of the Future is a VUW Summer Scholarship collaboration between Victoria University of Wellington and the National Library of New Zealand, exploring the role of 3D media within the context of libraries.

The summer scholars for this project were Ryan Achten and Dylan Hughes-Ward alongside Ruth Barnard contributing as a Research Assistant.

Download the team's final presentation and report (pdf, 14MB)

Digital Archive of the Future

Our research showed that 3D media is more effective in a library when it is used to aid learning, enhance narratives, and encourage interactive engagement with existing archives.

We found that the most successful interactions with 3D printers were those that connect the user with digital media. These include augmented reality, gesture interaction and other user interactive media, which enable visitors to engage playfully within the library space while discovering and learning.

Based on our findings, we’ve produced four scenarios showing how 3D printers can take on a pivotal role in the National Library experience. The scenarios are based on two current exhibitions and one Library collection.

Scenario 1: A contemporary conversation

Four screenshots of the Contemporary Conversation scenario, showing digital tech in use to augment exhibits.

World War One: A Contemporary Conversation commemorates the Great War’s centenary by encouraging the public to reflect on the First World War and think about their connection with war today. In this scenario three exhibits have been brought to life for the visitor through 3D animation, augmented reality, and 3D printing. Each demonstrates a unique way to engage the audience.

Photograph of Jules Gominet, coloured, animated, and augmented.

This photo of ‘An Alsatian prisoner of war, World War I’, Jules Gominet, has been brought to life through 3D animation, enabling him to introduce himself to the viewer and explain his situation.

Scenario 2: A child’s war

Using augmented exhibition tools in A Child's War.

In A Child’s War 3D models act as signposts for exhibits visitors can interact with. The interaction takes place via a smart device, using the 3D print as a reference image for accessing a variety of educational and contextual media. Characters within the exhibited text can be can be printed to enhance the learning experience, and can be used to promote play as a form of learning.

Using augmented exhibition tools in A Child's War.

We tried two different approaches to using smart replicas, 3D prints housing electronics and information overlaid using external devices and software. One exhibit used an interactive song book and another gave visitors a tangible topographic map.

Scenario 3: Paul Jenden

Models, animations, and prints of a figure inspired by Paul Jenden's work.

Paul Jenden (1955-2013) was a writer, director, choreographer, set and costume designer. The National Library has a collection of his costume and set designs, which we have used to demonstrate how 3D prints are interactive and engaging. Although our target audience is children, the simple layout and colourful prints could also appeal to other groups.

Images showing the development of the Jenden figure.

The image above shows two modelling processes used within the project; the top sequence shows the workflow used to create a colour 3D print from a base model produced in Rhino, and the bottom sequence shows the animation workflow starting with the base model, through to texturing, and assigning the skeleton to the model so it can be animated.

Jenden figures in different media and 3D printed butterfly wings.

We explored four approaches to colour printing:

  1. UP print
  2. Sandstone print from Ink
  3. MCor
  4. Connex print

My National Library

Various diagrams relating to the My National Library project.

My National Library is a proposed online system, linked with the National Library’s existing website. It is a space for the user to collect information in a variety of media, including photos, written text, paintings, audio recordings and 3D files.

The 3D prints are connected to information that links the user to the 3D model’s relevant research and stored information. This connected meaning combined with physical interaction with the model helps to evoke a meaningful experience between the person and the artefact.

3D renders of a medal, with indications that information is being added.

In this example, the user can scan and print their heirloom, attach information to the print and link the information they find to their My National Library profile to contextualise the model.

3D renders of a medal, with information being shared and accessed with a smart device.

Through augmented reality on the user’s phone, a new layer of information is added to the model. This information can be shared, which enables the augmented reality to be accessed and viewed by others.


Summer Scholars: Ryan Achten, Dylan Hughes-Ward

Research Assistant: Ruth Barnard

Supervisors: Simon Fraser, Walter Langelaar, Tim Miller, Rhazes Spell

National Library Liaison: Peter Rowlands

Exhibition Curation: Simon Fraser

Exhibition Graphics: Liane McGee (Fortyfive Design Studio)

By Ruth Barnard, Dylan Hughes-Ward, and Ryan Achten

Ruth is a postgrad Media Studies student, and Dylan and Ryan are Master of Design Innovation students at Victoria University.

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