Science Museum unveils virtual shipping galleries


A unique 3D point cloud model of the Science Museum’s shipping galleries, created from 2 billion precise measurements, was unveiled today in a first for the UK museums sector.

Originally opened in 1963, the shippinggalleries were home to the Museum’s maritime collection until 2012, whenthe galleries closed to make way for InformationAge, a new gallery opening in September 2014. Before the 1800 objects ondisplay were moved into storage, the Science Museum worked with UCLand ScanLAB Projects to create a 3D point cloud model,documenting and digitally preserving the galleries for everyone.

The 3D model and accompanying video tour, narrated by curator oftransport David Rooney, will ensure that the shipping galleries and objects remainaccessible, albeit virtually, for future generations to explore and learn from.

“This 3D model has allowed us to record 1800 galleryobjects in context, digitally preserving the gallery space as well as theobjects themselves. The video tour and point cloud model will open up thegallery and Science Museum maritimecollection to a new generation of virtual visitors,” explains Daniel Evans,Head of Web, at the Science Museum Group.

Although the sheer size of the point cloud data makes itsuse challenging, the Science Museum will now explorefurther applications for the raw data, as well as making it publicly availablelater this year. “Releasing Science Museum digital contentfor public re-use across the internet is a focus for us this year, and I lookforward to seeing many innovative ideas for the shipping galleries data from the public,” said Evans. 

In total, 275 laser scans of the shipping galleries were captured by a pair of FARO Photon 120terrestrial laser scanners. Each scan recorded a 360 degree view – measuringmillions of points to sub-millimetre accuracy – to generate a fully navigablepoint cloud, 256GB in size. The video animation, rendered using specialistpoint cloud software, used just 10% of this raw data.

“ScanLAB’s laser scanning technology collects data as a vast, highly accurate 3D point cloud and can be used to digitise anything from intricately detailed objects to vast cityscapes with millimetre precision,” said Matthew Shaw, ScanLAB Projects. “The technology allows us to extract a forensic level of detail, quickly and without damaging the exhibits. We hope this data set can soon be viewed across the globe, allowing experts and the general public alike to continue exploring this amazing collection.” 


For more information contact William Stanley, Science Museum Press Office on: 0207 942 4429

Notes to Editors


The 3D point cloud model of the shipping galleries was created with 2 billion precise measurements taken from 275 laser scans of the galleries by ScanLAB Projects. The raw data is planned to be released publicly this year. The video tour of the shipping galleries, narrated by curator of transport David Rooney, and further information on the project is available at

The shipping galleries are currently being transformed into a brand new permanent gallery, Information Age, which will open in September 2014. Information Age will be the world’s foremost celebration of information and communication technologies, revealing how lives have been transformed by communication innovations over the last 200 years.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement.

About ScanLABProjects

ScanLAB Projects specialise in large scale 3D Scanning.Using pioneering laser scanning techniques, the practice capture millimetreperfect, full colour, digital versions of objects, exhibitions, buildings andevents. Collaborating with architects, scientists and cultural institutionsacross the world has seen ScanLAB Projects create digital versions of a host ofsubjects, from Arctic Ice Floes to some of London’s most iconic buildings and VivianWestwood haute coutre collections.