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Explore Sir John Soane’s Wondrous Museum in 3D

The team at ScanLAB projects has been working with the Sir John Soane Museum to create an online replica of the institution.

The Sepulchral Chamber in the John Soane Museum (screenshot via explore.soane.org)

If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the eclectic collection of Sir John Soane, the cluttered London house that shelters the 19th century architect’s acquired antiquities and artworks is now more accessible than ever. The team at ScanLAB projects, a UK-based creative studio specializing in large-scale 3D scanning, has been working with the Sir John Soane Museum to create an online replica of the institution. Created with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the recently launched website allows you to  explore its rooms and marvels in 3D and learn more about a number of specific objects.

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A cork model of the Temple of Vesta by Giovanni Altieri (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)

An ongoing endeavor, the project currently offers two rooms to explore online: Soane’s Model Room, filled with educational architectural models and freshly restored last year; and the Sepulchral Chamber, which stands in the center of the museum. ScanLAB has designed the website so you arrive at these spaces by floating to them like a ghost, through other heavily stocked rooms in the house and passing through translucent walls, which gives you a preview of other scanned spaces to come. Clicking and dragging your mouse lets you examine the details in each room in 360˚, albeit from one fixed perspective; ScanLAB has also scanned and digitized select objects on display, from the famed alabaster sarcophagus of King Seti to cork and plaster models of the ancient Temple of Vesta.  Clicking on each image draws up information on its history as well as additional images, including 3D ones that allow you to observe an object from all angles and zoom in on details you may not notice or be able to see in person. ScanLAB and the Museum have also made these 3D models and images available for non-commercial download.

Walking through the narrow halls of Sir John Soane Museum is a unique, irreplaceable experience; it’s one that invites personal discoveries as you take your time to wander through those overwhelming, historic spaces. But the project aligns perfectly with Soane’s desire for his house to remain as a permanent space for education — although the architect would certainly be thrown by these new, involved technologies. It’s also an immensely ambitious endeavor, considering that the surfaces of Sir John Soane’s Museum are essentially all covered with paintings, sculpture, furnishings, and objects of curiosity. It’ll be interesting to see which rooms and their contents ScanLAB and the museum choose to highlight. I’m personally keeping my fingers crossed that the property’s recently restored Catacombs will eventually end up online, too.

The digitized model room (screenshot screenshot via explore.soane.org)
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King Seti I’s alabaster sarcophagus (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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King Seti I’s alabaster sarcophagus (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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A cork model of the Temple of Vesta by Giovanni Altieri (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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A model of Pompeii (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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A model of Pompeii (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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A model for the courts in Westminster, of Soane’s own design (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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A plaster model of the Temple of Vesta by François Fouquet (image via explore.soane.org, used under CC BY-NC 4.0 license)
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