Bringing Ancient Art to Hoosier homes

The Uffizi Project: Digitizing our history

There are some 20,000 museums outside of the United States, housing some of the world’s most renowned artwork, from Dali to Rembrandt. Until now, these priceless artifacts were largely inaccessible to most Americans, costing thousands of dollars to travel abroad and view these art pieces in person.

But with the advent of art digitization, thousands of these cherished antiquities can now be experienced by anyone with a smartphone or computer. With 3-D technology, Hoosiers can now explore in-depth the brilliant curvature of Greek architecture from their classroom. And museum enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite medieval fresco from their own home.

Last year, a group of Indiana University students traveled to the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence, Italy—one of the most renowned art museums in the world—to photograph a collection of over 1,250 Greek and Roman sculptures from the House of Medici. The five-year project, led by IU’s Virtual World Heritage Laboratory co-director Bernard Frischer and featuring students in IU’s new Ph.D. program in virtual heritage, is part of an effort to make some of Europe’s finest artifacts more accessible than ever.

Once completed, the collection will be stored separately by Indiana University, the Uffizi museum, and the Digital Preservation Network.

IU President Michael A. McRobbie, who led the trip, said the project "will completely change the perception of what ancient sculpture should look like."

In addition to the hundreds of 3-D computer models being developed, the program also trains IU art history and informatics students to use 3-D data capture and digital modeling technology.