The importance of 3D in cultural heritage is continuously increasing, as are the technological possibilities in that matter. Europeana itself established a 3D task force in 2019 to enhance the dissemination of 3D content for education, research and creative industries at Europeana. The aim of the task force is to provide guidance for datat providers and aggregators on how to create and publish 3D content. The current situation in the 3D sector shows that there are still certain standards and ‘best practices’ missing. As diverse as the software to create 3D models are the data formats that are commonly used which can make sharing and embedding difficult. Another problem is the size of 3D files. 3D content often originates from multiple datasets with separate files, rendered to a functioning model. Rendering this complex model requires a highspeed connectivity that a standard user seldom has. In addition there are many other technological, ethical and legal barriers to overcome.

The findings are presented in the task force report, which launched a year later in 2020. The following paragraphs try to summarize the outcome of the report on what you have to think about when creasting 3D content.

Different types of 3D objects

There are various different types of 3D objects Europeana is collecting that can influence the way the digital data has to be described:

  • 3D content generated from images and measurements of real-world cultural heritage objects captured via instruments (e.g. representation of current condition of vase or building etc.)
  • 3D Visualisations and virtual representations generated from a range of sources (e.g. reconstruction based on real-world measurements, simulation modelling projects etc.)
  • 3D models for building management and design purposes (e.g. HBIM – historical building information modelling)
  • 3D models for games – e.g. based on real-world objects
  • 3D works of art

3D content in Europeana – Metadata

The following paragraph is taken from the task force report, p. 38 and describes what needs to be considered when aiming to publish 3D content in Europeana.

Europeana does not host content. New content is signposted in Europeana by the inclusion of a metadata record. The metadata record provided should point to 3D content where it can be accessed online. It is recommended that the metadata provided to Europeana should:

  • Conform to the mandatory requirements for EDM.
  • Include a clear description of what is represented in the 3D content so users can
    distinguish between a representation of an object in its current condition, a virtual
    reconstruction and other types of 3D.
  • Provide an account of the digital provenance of the 3D content so that users can
    understand the context in which the content was created, the methods and processes
    used, and the research/interpretation that has been carried out in creating the content.
  • Conform to recommendations for good metadata quality including the use of controlled
    vocabularies, Linked Open Data resources and authority files, and language labelling
    of the metadata to improve retrieval.

To sum this up, Europeana needs you to conform to certain standards while describing your 3D objects:

  • provide discovery and access to the model (direct link to object in viewer)
  • always make sure to provide a clear description to distinguish between the different kinds of 3D objects
  • provide information on how your content was created (technique, software, methods, project information etc.)
  • stick to good metadata quality (vocabularies, language tags, etc.)
  • Accepted data formats: gLTF, X3D, OBJ, PLY, STL, DAE, WRL, DICOM, IFC
  • Preview 2D image of the cultural heritage object for Europeana preview

TwinIt! – 3D for Europe’s culture

TwinIt! is a European campaign that was launched in 2023 and aims to enhance 3D digitization of tangible and intangible cultural heritage objects. The main focus is the question of preserving those assets highly at risk due to various reasons like war or natural degredation.

TwinIt! asked all European member states to send in one 3D digitized asset of their choice that matched specific prerequisites. If you want to learn more about the project and its goals and scope, read our news post or visit Europeana.

Right now, the different 3D assets of the member states are already available at the Europeana gallery TwinIt! A pan-European collection of heritage 3D models.

Additional Material

More information about the Europeana specifications can be found in the task force report.