27 February of 2014
by Tiril Beatrix Uglum & Elif Koyutürk
Imagine shaking hands with a real Viking. Or think about a Viking in the form of a 3D image. At the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo this idea will soon be a possibility.
At the museum they are 3D-scanning the remains and findings from one of the largest Viking graves: the Oseberg grave. With a powerful insight into practical use of e-learning, the University of Oslo is now ready to branch out with their gained experience. The purpose of the 3D-scanning in the Viking Ship Museum is two-sided. But 3D also triggers the main point in the debate about e-learning and the technological innovation overall; to which extent can the virtual world take over for the real?
For a long time The University Museums in Norway have been collecting all of their artefacts in online photo archives. All the museums are putting information in a joint online archive, collective for the public. But these archives are large and hard to navigate through. The overall idea is a good one, but in practice it is not a user friendly solution. There is reason to believe that this might change as the University Museums are headed for a high-impact innovation in regards to their online archiving. Professor in archaeology and curator at the Viking Ship Museum, Jan Bill, explains that this is a huge resource to students and researchers, as well as the general public.
Making fragile artefacts touchable
As Jan Bill explains, the 3D scans will provide a lot of new possibilities for students and researchers. The artefacts of the Viking Ship Museum are old and fragile. For someone to be allowed to touch these objects, there would be important research involved. Most people studying the artefacts would never see more than a picture in a textbook or the side of the artefact turned upwards in the museum. When scanned in 3D, students and researchers have the possibility to turn and examine every part of the objects. They will also be able to measure and examine parts they would never be able to before. In this way, e-learning is literally breaking through the boundaries when it comes to cultural and educational life. The possibilities that are unravelled by this development are huge for the archaeological researching and educational field.
Increased availability or decreased Wanderlust?
Another dimension to the 3D-scanning is the accessibility. When the objects have been scanned, they are placed online in the archives and turned into downloadable PDFs. Anyone can then access the objects anytime and anywhere in the world. In other words; you don’t have to travel to see the artefacts. The prioritizing of visiting something decreases when you can see the improved online version on your tablet in the comfort of your own home, wherever that might be. Is it okay for technology to limit us to travelling online, even if it is through amazing 3D-images and lifelike virtual tours?
Go beyond our own borders
The digitization of the artefacts will bring vast possibilities. It will increase the potential use for both students and researchers. In extension to this, the availability for other groups, such as handicapped people. With the objects being more accessible, the museum might experience a new wave of interest; and with that, increased revenue. But there is also a downside to the digitalization. The 3D-images are available right where you are, on your tablet or even your smartphone. With this accessibility you can stay right where you are. It is a part of life to venture out, beyond our own borders and seek out first hand knowledge. Even if the possibility to stay rather than go is there, the natural Wanderlust should have room to grow. After all, you can be anywhere in the world and still shake hands with an (almost) real Viking.
Header picture by: Alper Kirklar
E-learning: the end of education as we know it?