13.02.2023 | 5 minutes reading time
What do a malachite, the nest of a weaverbird, an albino jackdaw and a Hercules beetle have in common? All of them belong to our dataset of 3D models of historical collection objects, published for the first time on the museum’s data portal under a free license in September 2022.
At the Mediasphere For Nature, we very regularly receive requests for 3D models of a wide variety of collection objects. Often, people are looking for insects but sometimes also birds and mammals, e.g. for art projects, exhibitions, animations or digital learning materials.
The kick-off for our 3D collaboration with the creative studio
Together with our bird collection manager, Pascal Eckhoff, the Mediasphere For Nature provided the team with a female Saxon barn owl from 1845 plus a complete feather record of this species for their photogrammetry recordings on our premises. The animated owl became the secret star of the music video. In return, we received all photos, videos and the 3D model for publication.
In recent years, the museum has become increasingly involved with the 3D media format in the course of
Together with our cooperation partner relative.berlin, we came up with the idea of using the barn owl as a starting point for a photogrammetry-based journey in 3D through our collection. All 3D models were to be made available to the public under a free license (CC-BY) via our data portal. In addition to various birds, objects such as minerals, insects, mammals, reptiles, and archival items from the museum’s Historical Archive were shortlisted. Together with the digitization managers and collection staff of the various sub-collections, we set out to find objects that met very clear criteria:
- historical significance
- as complete as possible metadata on location, collector & year
- size ideally between 10 and 50 cm
- no shiny metallic, transparent or completely white surfaces
- no single protruding hairs or feathers
Not all of the selected animals met the requirements equally well. The Peruvian spider wasp Pepsis hyperion, with the most painful sting of all time, proved to be quite “painful” even during recording and post-processing: its small size (as a wasp it is a giant, but as a digitizing object rather small), semi-transparent wings and shimmering black body presented the relative team with special challenges right on the first day of recording. The
relative.berlin first came to the museum in September 2021 with a rig specially optimized for photogrammetry shots, complete with lighting, camera, turntable and props. Within four weeks, three more scanning days followed at our Mediasphere office, during which they scanned, among other things, a giant Triton’s trumpet from the mollusk collection, an alien-like goethite, a historical teaching model of a radiolarian from the Historical Archive, a very prickly hedgehog, a fluffy Tibetan bear cub, and even Jacob, Alexander von Humboldt’s vasa parrot. In their
Living a culture of mistakes also means dealing openly with the failures: Jacob, for example, damaged during World War II, with only a few but very fuzzy breast feathers, proved to be just as unsuitable for 3D modeling as the hedgehog’s spines. The same was true for the protruding bristles of the hairy armadillo, which is quite low in fur for a mammal, but still too hairy. The small Asian black bear was also not convincing as a 3D model despite its cute baby face.
All the more successful was the educational model made of stone board of a radiolarian species, which was first discovered, described and drawn by the Potsdam zoologist Ernst Haeckel. The radiolarian’s inner skeleton (Stylodictya multispina) made of silicon dioxide can be studied particularly well in 3D using this model from 1884. Also fascinating is the view of the tufted puffin, which the poet and naturalist Adelbert von Chamisso brought back to Germany from his three-year expedition aboard the Russian warship “Rurik” between 1815 and 1818.
Mineral enthusiasts can get an all-round view of a malachite from the so-called “Old Russian State Collection”, which was given to the Royal Mineral Cabinet in Berlin, one of the predecessor institutions of today’s Museum für Naturkunde, by the Russian Tsar Alexander I in 1803, in addition to a goethite (an iron-bearing mineral). The only mammal to make it into the final selection was a juvenile seven-banded armadillo thanks to its low level of hairiness.
From this dataset, a Colombian Hercules beetle with a proud total length of almost 13 cm achieved some fame. It became the “face” of the
The beetle is also part of the VR experience in “Theatrum Radix”, a
Another highlight from the collaboration with relative.berlin is the trailer for the data portal, which showcases all the 3D models created and the associated metadata. Accompanied by music arranged especially for this trailer by
If you are also interested in using the 3D models from our collection, visit our