Digital Humanities student placement in Institute of Classical Studies 2024

Guest post by Wei Hei Nip

As part of the MSc Digital Humanities programme at UCL, I had the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing project on 3D digitisation and documentation of the Ehrenberg Bequest at the Institute of Classical Studies between 29th April and 17th May 2024. As a former student of Ancient History and Archaeology, and currently pursuing my Masters in Digital Humanities, this placement provided me with a unique opportunity to apply my skills and knowledge from DH in archaeological settings.

The Ehrenberg Bequest is a collection of over 150 small antiquities, mostly Greek and Roman ceramics, bequeathed to the ICS by Dr. Victor Ehrenberg in 1976. The collection is currently being used in teaching and training of 3D methods involving students, workshop participants, internship or placements. The 3D digitization works involve producing 3D models of the collection items and to document the imaging and modelling process.

The Senate House MakerSpace is the shared space for digitisation and experimentation located in the Senate House. It focuses on the experiment and application of 3D technologies. The Digital Humanities Research Hub may sometimes organise training and workshops at the MakerSpace to help students and researchers think about the use of 3D technologies in their works. My work placement mainly takes place within the MakerSpace.

Setup of photogrammetry studio at the MakerSpace


1. Digitisation

One of my main tasks during the placement was to digitise the artefacts from the Ehrenberg Collection. This involved photogrammetry techniques and equipment to capture 3D images of the artefacts. The process involves taking photos of the artefact at different angles and processing the photos using photogrammetry software, Agisoft Metashape Pro. More on the 3D modelling workflow can be found in the blog posts by Gabriel Bodard (see here) and Barbara Roberts (see here).

The training is useful and informative, where an elaborate list of videos and hands-on practice are provided. Following the training provided, I selected a small selection of objects to work on. I carefully documented the process of photogrammetry and processed the captured images to create accurate 3D models. The finished 3D models are uploaded onto ICS’s Ehrenberg Collection SketchFab account, where they are publicly accessible.

The Ehrenberg Bequest offers a variety of artefacts to digitise, such as Roman lamps and fragments of pottery. Here’s an example of my digitisation.

Cypriot white-painted ware aryballos Ehrenberg collection catalogue no. 43 (see here)

Cypriot white-painted ware aryballos Ehrenberg collection catalogue no. 43 (see here)

2. Documentation

Besides digitising the artefacts, I also helped with the documentation and cataloguing processes. I recorded all the necessary information about the digitised objects mainly in a designated Word document. This involved noting down details such as object descriptions, 3D modelling configurations and processes.

In addition to the Word document, I attempted to document the 3D digitisation using the Digital Lab Notebook created by Cultural Heritage Imaging (Chi). It is an open source software for collecting and managing metadata about computational photography projects. Users can enter information such as, metadata of the imaging subjects, equipment, imaging methodology, related locations, people and documents.

However, challenges were encountered during the data input process in the DLN. For instance, the configurations are sometimes not applicable to the projects. Further works and planning are needed to fully utilise the software for the project’s documentation.

I also organised the catalogue spreadsheet, cross-referencing it with the digitised objects to ensure that there were no missing records. This work helped in maintaining a comprehensive and accurate inventory of the collection. However, due to the condition of storage of the Ehrenberg collection, the catalogue number of the artefacts may have been lost. Hence, some of the artefacts are unable to be identified from the catalogue spreadsheet. Further work may have to be done to better organise and catalogue the collection.

My Learning

Through this placement, I gained hands-on experience in 3D digitisation, image processing, and model creation. This experience reinforced my understanding of how digital technologies can be utilised for cultural heritage preservation and accessibility. I am also grateful that I learnt how to make 3D models using photogrammetry despite having no prior experience at all.

The placement also let me work in a self-directed manner, allowing me to organise my time and work independently. It also gave me the chance to engage with the people at the Digital Humanities Research Hub and the ICS, and understand how digital humanities are applied to their work.

I also get to participate in activities at the MakerSpace. The Analog 3D Printing workshop is particularly fun, where we create objects with clay as a hands-on discussion on how ancient technologies or objects were made.

Products from the analog 3D printing workshop

By the end of the placement, I also get to 3D print a digitised object from the ICS Ehrenberg Collection and bring home as a souvenir. It is printed with the Ultimaker 3 Extended 3D printer equipped in the MakerSpace.

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