Capturing Content for Virtual Museums: from Pieces to Exhibits


  • Bradley Hemminger School of Information and Library Science
  • Gerald Bolas Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina
  • Doug Schiff 3rdTech


Virtual museums provide ways to capture the content of a real museum in a digital (electronic) form and make this digital form more universally available. This paper describes a novel method for digitally recording not only individual museum pieces, but entire museum exhibits (consisting of one or more rooms or spaces). The methodology allows anyone with access to the Internet or a PC to experience anywhere, anytime, any part of the museum's collection or exhibits (past, present and future). Users can explore the museum exhibits in a virtual reality that is both spatially accurate and visually compelling. All objects and 3D scenes are seen in precise full color photographic quality detail. The scene and objects are polygonal meshes representing the surfaces of objects. This permits making measurements directly on the scene with millimeter precision. The methodology, its application to capturing museum exhibits, and examples of exhibits recorded using this technique are described. This work is part of the Virseum project ( at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). In addition to the capture of items and exhibits for virtual access, this methodology opens the door for many other applications, including capturing a record of an exhibit for archival purposes and for communication between curators, and for the design of virtual (never physically implemented) exhibits and pieces based on actual pieces and settings.