C. Osnes1, D. Livingstone2, P.M. Rea3

1Glasgow School of Art and University of Glasgow (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Glasgow School of Art (UNITED KINGDOM)
3University of Glasgow (UNITED KINGDOM)
Novel digitisation and visualisation techniques hold the potential to improve digital and archival preservation methods and enable wider access to historical collections. This study explored the potential of using photogrammetry to digitise a selection of anatomical specimens in the University of Glasgow Hunterian Collection for the purpose of developing a 'virtual museum' of pathological specimens currently inaccessible to the public. A digital, interactive resource could make William Hunter’s teaching specimens once again available to students, as originally intended following his death in 1783.

Photogrammetry workflows were tested and adapted to create high-resolution three dimensional (3D) models of both wet and dry specimens. These specimens presented considerable challenges including pollution, deterioration, large scale, and glass casing.

Three widely available photogrammetry software packages - Agisoft PhotoScan, Autodesk Recap and Autodesk Memento - were compared and evaluated to assess the suitability of the different photogrammetric workflows for the respective specimens.

Dry specimens were highly suitable for high-resolution photogrammetric digitisation, producing high-quality 3D models. However, specimens preserved in fluid proved a greater challenge than dry specimens due to reflections and refraction caused by glass and liquid. Agisoft PhotoScan was the only program able to successfully model some - but not all - of the wet specimens, producing high-quality 3D models.

Reproducing the glass jar surrounding each specimen was not achievable using photogrammetry. However, it was possible to remove the glass encasing during, or after, model creation in all software packages, successfully producing 3D models without the original casing. 

A selection of models were published online using Sketchfab, proving it practicable to make high-quality interactive models available to the public.

These results show that it is feasible to digitise both wet and dry specimens using photogrammetry. Recommendations for similar digitisation projects are provided.