Today's episode is a discussion about Glam3D.org with its creators. The Engelberg Center launched Glam3D.org this summer as a resource for cultural institutions interested in digitizing cultural resources in 3D and making those digitizations available as part of an open access program.
The episode is hosted by Engelberg Center Executive Director Michael Weinberg and features the two other co-creators of Glam3D.org, Sketchfab Cultural Heritage Lead Thomas Flynn and Engelberg Center Fellow Neal Stimler.
Unlike most Engelberg Center Live! episodes, which are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, this episode is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. This variation allows the episode licensing to match the licensing for Glam3D.org.
The theme music for this episode is by Jessica Batke. The modified version of the Engelberg Center Live! theme that appears on this episode is also licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
Michael Weinberg [00:00:01] Welcome to Engelberg Center Live. This is the podcast that we use at the Engelberg Center to focus on interesting events and topics that are in the Engelberg Center universe. Today I'm really excited to be talking to two of the partners who helped launch our recent web site, Glam3D.org, Neal Stimler and Thomas Flynn, who are going to talk about what this Web site is, why we developed the resource and how you can use it.
Michael Weinberg [00:00:28] So first, we're going to talk about Glam3D.org today. This is a Web site that the Engelberg Center recently launched. To kick things off, Neal, do you want to talk about just what Glam3D.org is?
Neal Stimler [00:00:42] Yes, Glam3D.org is a publication, online publication that is a resource primarily targeted at cultural institutions and cultural resource professionals, creating 3D models from culture resources that are in institutions or environments around the world.
Neal Stimler [00:01:00] And it's meant to be something that activates and primes further engagement with 3D scanning and sharing for culture, especially in the times of COVID 19.
Neal Stimler [00:01:10] But even beyond, as we think about a more interconnected world.
Michael Weinberg [00:01:14] And it really focuses on 3D models and open access, correct?
Neal Stimler [00:01:19] Absolutely, yes. Open access is a key and essential thread throughout the entire publication.
Michael Weinberg [00:01:24] And Thomas, how did you get involved with the site?
Thomas Flynn [00:01:28] So having having worked in my role at Sketchfab with museums around the world, creating, publishing, advising on the production of 3D models captured from cultural resources, generally getting involved into the digital culture space. It became or has become apparent over the last few years that there are certain topics that are being addressed or in need of being addressed by a publication like 3D or or something similar. Covering the digitization of cultural resources, the open access strategy, as you mentioned, and as well as a simple, clear way for people to understand copyright as related to cultural resources.
Thomas Flynn [00:02:23] So I met with Neal, let's say I knew Neal from online in general, I think that's a way you can know someone these days. But then when working in New York, we met up a drinking about museums. Is that right?
Neal Stimler [00:02:39] Yes. Could have been.
Thomas Flynn [00:02:40] event. And and, yeah, I've found that we had sympathetic approaches to the open access and an interest in 3-D. And Neal then could come in contact with you.
Michael Weinberg [00:02:59] Yes, so Thomas you really come to this from sketch fab, from that digitization and dissemination side of things. Neal, what is your background? How are you connected to museums and especially to the open access part of it?
Neal Stimler [00:03:12] So I've spent a good portion of my career working on openness and access initiatives, have guided the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its open access launch in 2017, support at the Cleveland Museum of Art with their open access program in 2019 and the Smithsonian Institution. So open access has been a core part of my professional practice and with these three institutions just mentioned to have helped release hundreds of thousands and millions of cultural resources into the public domain with Creative Commons zero designation, including a two dimensional images where we started that JPEGs and TIFF's, and then that we've now seen the emergence more of the 3D models many, many times in partnership with Sketch Fab. A leading example there being with the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Michael Weinberg [00:03:56] Open access is a term that some people are familiar with, but other people aren't. And the really core idea behind open access is that these these files, these representations are being made available to the public in a way that really frees them to use them and engage with them and build on them however they want. And so when we think about open access resources, it means those resources that have been digitized and then made available under open access terms, which usually have two layers. The first is a copyright waiver, and most often they use a Creative Commons zero public domain dedication. Just make it clear that they are not the institution that's making the files available are not claiming any copyright interest in the files. So they're basically inviting the public to say these are these are in the public domain. They're for anyone to use do whatever you want with them. And then also there's a second layer, which is a kind of legal terms of service layer, because you could see a situation where a museum says we're not claiming copyright on these, but our terms of service really restrict how people are going to use these. But a good open access program, in addition to having no copyright claim on it, also does not have terms and conditions that limit the kind of uses. And so all of this is an idea that we're gonna take these shared cultural resources and make them available to the public so the public can essentially do whatever they want with them. And this is a moment where that kind of digital interaction and free flowing digital interaction with cultural resources is really important. Obviously, when we planned this a number of months ago, we were not anticipating the moment that we are in now. But Neal or to Thomas, what is, you know, this moment, this COVID moment when all of a sudden institutions are facing any number of challenges. Why is this publication more interesting or more important now than we may have anticipated when we began thinking about the project?
Thomas Flynn [00:05:54] From the work that I do I've seen an increase in inbound interest in the platform that runs a culture heritage program offering free and discounted subscriptions to cultural organizations.
Thomas Flynn [00:06:08] And I've had seen a general increase in the number of inbound requests to join that program, but also requests specifically mentioned the current situation with the pandemic as a reason why they are looking to create and build new online experiences for their audiences. So there are a lot of organizations that are looking to produce 3-D and to publish it.
Thomas Flynn [00:06:38] So it's it's really about putting 3-D in front of people and possibly publishing the data under an open access license. I think it's it's just part of a wider trend of increasing digital engagement for museum audiences.
Michael Weinberg [00:06:57] And, Neal, when we were thinking about this project, who is the audience? Right. We have this Web site, Glam3D.org. It's got an amazing amount of resources on it, but it's got resources that are not necessarily, you know, all things to all people. Who do you think about when you think about the audience of this site?
Neal Stimler [00:07:15] Well, I think about there several different layers of of users for the site and contributors. Hopefully we can see in the future joining the project. So I would definitely think of this as a resource for the executive level of an organization that's trying to understand the next wave of digitization. So part of my work at the Metropolitan Museum for many years was to work on the rapid digitization of the collection to increase access to it, but also the utility of it for key constituencies being scholars and academics, publishing books, also for teachers and educators that wanted to use those images and objects in the classroom or for students to reuse them creatively for their own presentations and creations. And the open access documentation, too, I think is also very valuable for what you might think of as third parties or individual creators that want a better understand the relationship of how to work with an institution and what that's like and also begin to embrace and further push the boundaries of those commercial reuses that an open access policy with Creative Commons zero public domain dedication or Creative Commons attribution enables with its terms. And a key answer to your earlier question to Michael about the importance of this Web site. Now, as as I was mentioned before, the next wave of digitization, we see an increasing need to move beyond borders. And that's something that the Internet can help us do. People that live in countries all over the world can make use of the collections that connect to them and their experiences and their interests. And we're providing an opportunity with the publication itself to empower new ways of thinking and creating. And I'm really excited about the potentials for new creative outputs, new fusions, new types of making that are enabled just by the virtue of these cultural resources being made available under such open terms. And a key aspect as well as that, we don't necessarily always know what the use cases will be. And in the case of 2D images, we've seen some really exciting growth through partnership programs. And that's happened since those initial launches where millions of people have reused and viewed those artworks beyond the borders of an institutions on Web site. And now we're seeing expansion into video games with things like animal crossing. So the potential for 3D, I think especially to be very important as we look at the frontiers of augmented reality or mixed reality or virtual reality. And we are consuming and engaging with our culture in our homes or shared with our families and friends over Internet connected devices is really prime.
Michael Weinberg [00:09:40] One of the things that I think initially presented a challenge but is now very much an opportunity for the site. Is that the nature of 3D digitization in the glam space is fairly new and is evolving rapidly. And so when we were thinking about how to construct the site and how to pull together what we're best practices, we knew that those best practices might be best practices at that moment, but weren't necessarily gonna be best practices forever. Thomas, how did you when you did a lot of the work in the technical areas of the paper on how to think about really approaching a lot of these programs from a technical standpoint? How did you think about deciding how to define what was cutting edge at the moment and then thinking about going forward? How do you think about maintaining the site to make sure that we stay up to date with those best practices?
Thomas Flynn [00:10:34] The way that I was thinking of describing 3D and go back to the idea of the audience for the public. I think it is a publication for the executive levels within an organization, but also I like to think of it as a handbook for people who have come to 3-D to open access to copyright from a completely know, beginner standpoint. And so for me, the sections about 3D begin a very, very basic level explaining what a 3D model is. But then really, it's a snapshot of the techniques for 3D capture that I have been following over the last five years since I began working with 3D in museums. And I'm working with Sketchpad and looking across museums, archives. Any glam organization across the globe that use primarily using Sketchpad to publish their 3D. But seeing which techniques are being used to most, the way that people describe this 3D model was created with a photogrammetry workflow or a laser scanning workflow. But at the same time, I think marrying that up with the success of the presentation of the 3D model, the completeness like also, you know, the the way it's been presented and released and used. So those are being able to see how different organizations have approached this or fed into the best that I was I was picking out and presenting as to the current state of 3D. 3D capture. And, you know, like most softwares, each each year, each cycle, the software is will improved. The hardware will improve. New 3D scanning technology will be invented or enhanced. And I think almost. It's not as important how you make your 3-D, the capture process has to what you do with it afterwards and what your goal is, because that will dictate what the capture process. You use it in the paper. In the publication, it's it covers the domain. Capture techniques, there are there are more capture techniques to capture detainees out there, but the ones that are being used the most and being discussed in existing culture, heritage, community groups, for example, the IIIF Community Group or the community standards for 3D Preservation Group. The things that are already under discussion and the way things are moving. I tried to kind of capture those conversations as well. And as they develop, I think that will inform updates that we make to the publication as well.
Michael Weinberg [00:13:35] We've been talking about institutions who are looking to get involved in this and are looking to engage in all the forces historically and then most recently more urgently, that have been pushing glam organizations to start thinking about how to develop and grow and sustain a 3D program. Both of you obviously work with a number of institutions on how to do that.
Michael Weinberg [00:13:57] So I'd like to hear from both of you. If you're talking to an institution that is interested in this, is intrigued, has looked over the site and is now trying to understand, OK, how do we really think about this and approach this process? What do you recommend? How do you tell those institutions, both the executive level and the people who will be tasked with really executing on a day to day basis? How to start thinking about those building one of these programs? Neal, we can start with you.
Neal Stimler [00:14:28] Thanks, Michael. I think one of the key things to think about at the highest level is developing a program that is repeatable, scalable and sustainable.
Neal Stimler [00:14:35] So one of the advantages that has been achieved with 2D digitization is that most cultural institutions have figured out how to use Jay picks and tiffs and to embed metadata and use metadata well to deliver large scale programs and the techniques and tools for doing that. And open source resources are widely available. So where we need to see the next level of performance is translating that kind of efficiency operationally to the 3D space. And this also means institutions having to learn how to really understand their collections in a whole new way. So Thomas could speak to this as well. But the issue that material and surface and thinking about the new dimensionality that these collections are now entering in the environments and spaces in which they're going to be apart. So it's both a question for a scholarly thinking, but also for the practical operations of how do we actually work in multiple dimensions beyond the flat screen.
Michael Weinberg [00:15:28] Thomas, how about how about you? What do you when you're talking to cultural institutions who are interested in getting started with 3-D, how do you recommend that they think about approaching this?
Thomas Flynn [00:15:38] As we've mentioned, this is a fairly new frontier for cultural organizations. But at the same time, you know, there has been 3-D production in some institutions for for a fairly, fairly long time. I think the key things for me when I speak with, you know, at length with an organization is to help them to understand 3-D as a medium when this is in the publication itself. And it's explained, or not explained, but it's suggested that when people talk about 3-D, a lot of people will jump to, oh, we're talking about virtual reality. We're talking about augmented reality. We're talking about 360 video. We're talking about video games. We're talking about 3D printing.
Thomas Flynn [00:16:28] And these are all used 3-D the defiles in some way, but they're not technically the medium of 3-D. And I think kind of understanding that 3-D can be a discrete file, that it is in turn a resource to build other things. That's one.
Thomas Flynn [00:16:48] One thing I try and get across is where 3-D culture, heritage related 3D can overlap with other industries who are currently using 3D as well with it as TV and film manufacturing. There's lots of different options available. Why would you produce 3D? And you are showing people the options they have. And then depending on the goals that that organization may have, I think helping them to understand the available audiences for 3D, whether whether it's an organization that's thinking really of publishing 3D online to engage with audiences and might be introducing the idea that the same 3D could be useful for internal audiences and stakeholders within their organization to use or if it's a museum or gallery, has a very internal audience focused approach, say, for using 3D in conservation and change management and maybe trying to bring them around to the idea that there are audiences outside of the walls of your institution, you are, you know, on a very basic level, they would love to see that 3D. And then beyond that, there are plenty of people who are interested in using reusing remixing that same 3D.
Michael Weinberg [00:18:17] Can you talk a little bit more about that distinction that you're drawing out between 3D as a medium in and of itself and the various applications of 3D?
Thomas Flynn [00:18:29] I think the distinction is important because technology and cultural organizations has a complicated past. If you go, I think that the kind of two thousands. Saw a lot of museums producing apps, and for a while, you know, this was the hot topic. And then, you know, in a few years it became almost a joke about like, let's just make an app to solve a problem that we're having. So this idea of certain organizations being averse to jumping on the bandwagon and that that's what 3-D can be seen as sometimes. So I think. Breaking down where this idea of 3D as a resource, as as a medium and separating that from the idea of producing a VR experience, which is kind of it's an end you publish, you're at your virtual reality experience or your augmented reality experience.
Thomas Flynn [00:19:32] But 3D as a as a resource is an ongoing project that it doesn't necessarily have an end. You have goals and outcomes.
Thomas Flynn [00:19:42] And producing 3-D, I think, can really help an organization that hasn't begun producing 3-D content to know the limits of what they're doing, but also the opportunities that are present.
Neal Stimler [00:19:54] I'd like to add to that to Michael as well and say that we can think of three teehee models of culture resources as mission critical assets does. The same can be said of two dimensional images and data and publications, all of the content, the cultural content that connects to these things, that helps tell stories and gives context and meaning and insight.
Neal Stimler [00:20:13] This is a critical asset that any organization, cultural organization should be trying to develop and build because it's a critical tool to be redeployed in so many different contexts and use uses, whether it be educational or product making. It's an essential part of the toolkit that a cultural organization needs to have.
Michael Weinberg [00:20:32] Neal, I know that this is this paper and the site is about 3-D, but it's not about just 3-D. It's about 3D and open access. And a big part of the work that you did and you were in charge of drafting for this site was about the open access part and open access. It can be exciting, you know, a lot of cases, but there are plenty of institutions who are concerned when they hear about open access because they think, well, wait, we're just going to we have this stuff and we're just going to give it away for free. How is that even going to work when you talk to organizations? And as we were discussing the creation of this site, how do you think about the economics of open access and why it is not just viable but important to really focus on an open access based approach?
Neal Stimler [00:21:20] The critical part of the economics of open access is that many cultural institutions are spending too much money on the administration of traditional licensing programs, and they can further optimize the revenue that they should be capturing by reprivatize. That workforce into more meaningful tasks, including building new opportunities for revenue generation through partnerships with commercial companies, and also really emphasizing the importance of engagement. So what we've seen with open access, especially in the realm of partnership, is that when institutions partner with Wikimedia communities globally, with Internet Archive, with Creative Commons, the access and interest and reach of their collections overwhelms the number of visits they would have on their own collections Web sites. So from the engagement side, there is a critical opportunity there to raise awareness about those collections. We've also seen some really great examples of innovative types of partnerships, for example, with the National Gallery of Denmark SMK in its collaboration with Shapeways doing the Art Jewels contest, which promoted an innovative way of responding to assume case open access collection to make 3-D jewelry. And then that jewelry was sold. So we need to see more innovation and more investment from cultural institutions along the lines of the Rijksmuseum to be building these new opportunities for the economy because the traditional licensing models just don't support it anymore.
Michael Weinberg [00:22:39] And Thomas, when you're talking to organizations and institutions and they're trying to say, OK, well, we've digitized these these works in our collection and we've made them available, how should we think about metrics? How should we think about success? How do we know if this is working? Do you have conversations with those organizations? And when you do, what do you tell them?
Thomas Flynn [00:23:02] I think they're kind of in essence, partly in the way that open access works is that you are offering something freely. And the metrics, one of the metrics, for example, knowing how somebody has used a 3D model would be to ask people to tell you. But if you are releasing it under very public domain dedication, nobody is under the obligation to tell you what they've done with it. So it's in part not necessarily the, to measure what people have done with it, you can easily measure if if people have visited the Web page where you're hosting your 3D model on Sketch Fab, we have a download counter so you can see the number of times a model has been downloaded. You could put up a an intermediary page at the time of download saying, what are you gonna do with this 3D model? Let us know. But in a sense, I think that may be creating a barrier to access the 3D data itself. I think that the measure of success. It takes a long time for data that you publish online, whether it's 3-D or otherwise, to disseminate and permeate the audiences that would make use to use of it of that data. So it can be a waiting game. And. A kind of activity that you have to undertake yourself to search out who's using your your data to be mindful of where it might turn up. It might be complete serendipity that you see. And this is from my own experience of publishing 3-D, for example, through through the British Museum. But also the National Museum of Sweden. They saw one of their shields that they had digitized turn up in a Post Malone music video briefly and for three seconds. I think that wasn't credited, but somebody at the museum had seen it. So that is a success, I think, for that that piece of media. But the way that you can measure it is not really. Defined in some ways. You could also say that just the fact that you are making 3D available under open access is the success that you're looking for because you are publishing possibly public domain content or a digitized version of public domain content in the first place. So you're doing right by the. The collection that you hold by publishing a very it depends, I think, going back to try one more, one more thing that I think is worth worth thinking of is the results to a survey that I ran with cultural heritage users on Sketchfab in 2019. The one of the questions was, do you make your 3-D models available for download? And if not, why not? And the overwhelming. Reason for the organizations that responded to not publish their 3D models for download was that they have no control over what happens after it's been downloaded.
Thomas Flynn [00:26:27] And this idea that there are bad actors out there waiting to jump on cultural content and do something naughty with it, I think is pretty overblown. And the successes and the the the good uses of cultural content outweighs that that chance for me.
Neal Stimler [00:26:47] Michael, just to to jump in on that, too. Another important way of measuring success. I think maybe part two to looking at a different view from Thomas's with digital first solutions like 3D models for engagement and use of collections by the public or by commercial entities. Cultural institutions actually get measurable metrics that they can use to understand levels of engagement, whether they be views and downloads on a basic level. And then, as Thomas also mentioned, the serendipity of the things that are created down the line. So institutions that aren't taking advantage of these types of opportunities to have measurable engagement that they can show to their boards and to their curators in terms of understanding as a piece, the measurable impact are missing out on that understanding they wouldn't have with these tools.
Michael Weinberg [00:27:29] We're in this moment right now where there are enough of these examples of institutions doing 3-D to see what it could look like. But I think we're still very much at the moment where people are testing and trying and seeing what works. So I wonder if both of you can take a moment and think about the future. Think about the next six months. Think about the next maybe three years. Next 10 years. And what are you looking at in terms of trends in the future? What do you see as the future of this kind of 3D open access program at the GLAMs?
Neal Stimler [00:28:07] So I think this is a key opportunity to look at the future of collections. So there's been a trend in the past few years with the experience economy to be much more interested in immersive environments and experiences through physical interaction and with the limitations presented to us by climate change and global health concerns. I think collections and institutions that have collections will be doing a deeper look at the value of those collections and should be further investing and assessing how those collections can be used for academic purposes or commercial purposes. So I see a greater return in focus to collections that are in places in an institution, and putting further resources behind improving the quality of those assets and collections so that each institution, furthermore becomes its own publisher of content and also works in partnership with other distributors to bring it to larger audiences and consumers.
Thomas Flynn [00:29:00] Yeah, I would agree with there that this idea of a move towards a common approach to publishing 3-D that will cover compatibility across viewing devices or, you know, experiences and interoperability. You know, the same 3-D model being viewed in many different ways. And along with that, I think the. The challenge is digitization at scale will be addressed either by new, new or easier ways to put to digitize large portions of collections or approach changing to an understanding that it is a time consuming process to produce 3-D. So let's use the approach of digitizing the right things at the right time, at the right volume in the right way. But the point being that things are getting digitized in 3D, that it becomes a normal kind of part of the glam process where 3D can touch many different pieces of work within an organization. As I mentioned, internal, external. I think we'll see it becoming less of a hot topic and more of a standard.
Michael Weinberg [00:30:29] I want to wrap up this conversation by actually asking you, the listener, for two things. The first is, hopefully you've gotten a sense that from this conversation that Glam3D.org Has a wide range of resources talking about the conceptual approaches of open access and 3D digitization, of the technical aspects of picking the right objects, scanning them, storing them, archiving them, the legal aspects of making sure that you are licensing things correctly, partnership aspects, all of these things. So the first thing I want to do is really to invite you to go to Glam3D.org, check it out, poke around, and hopefully it is a useful resource to you as you go forward. The second thing I want to ask is to make a request, and that is that we very much see Glam3D.org as a growing resource and an evolving resource and a place where best practices are housed with those best practices evolving over time. And so if you go and check it out and poke around and realize we're missing something or that something was true and we wrote it, but that has been surpassed by practice or technology, please let us know and reach out, because we really hope to be able to continue to grow and expand this resource over time to keep up with the growth and expansion of 3D open access. So with that, I want to thank you for listening. I want to thank Neal and Thomas both for all of the work that they did to build this resource and for being on the podcast. So thank you both.
Thomas Flynn [00:32:08] Thank you.
Neal Stimler [00:32:09] Thank you, Michael.
Michael Weinberg [00:32:11] Engelberg Center Live is the podcast home to a wide range of events and discussions from the Engelberg Center on Innovation, Law and Policy at NYU Law. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license.
Michael Weinberg [00:32:25] For more information about the Engelberg Center, you can follow us on Twitter at NYU Engelberg and visit the Web site Engelberg.Center. Thanks for listening.