The 3D Icons Project digitises a series of architectural and archaeological masterpieces of world and European cultural significance and provide 3D models and related digital content to Europeana.
Public fascination with the architectural and archaeological heritage is well known, it is proven to be one of the main reasons for tourism according to the UN World Tourism Organisation. Historic buildings and archaeological monuments form a significant component Europe’s cultural heritage; they are the physical testimonies of European history and of the different events that led to the creation of the European landscape as we know it today.
People are becoming increasingly familiar with 3D content through films, TV and games. But the provision of high quality 3D cultural heritage content goes above the current technological trends. It provides a highly attractive format for engaging with the cultural heritage which is increasingly popular with users as it allows better understanding and appreciation of our cultural treasures. However relatively little 3D content has yet made its way to Europeana and the digitisation of Europe’s rich cultural heritage in 3D has, as yet, made less progress than the importance of these iconic monuments would suggest. There have been both technological and communication challenges to be addressed when digitising very large and complex objects: technical challenges, to acquire, manage and represent faithfully the complexity of surfaces and volumes; documentation challenges, to capture relations between the components of each monument and to cultural facts; cultural challenges in conveying the significance of the masterpiece; and communication challenges in publishing the results in a way which is understandable, interesting, entertaining and accessible to general Internet users. Previously funded EU research projects have solved most of the individual issues quoted above, but still mass digitisation of complex monuments is lacking.
The project focuses on UNESCO World Heritage monuments and other monuments of outstanding value at European level, to illustrate a particular strand of Europe’s history. The digital content includes overall 3D models and reconstructions, enlarged models of important details, images, texts, videos. 3D  Models are being created from for example the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Greek historic sites but also prehistoric sites from Western Ireland.  The project also includes and re-contextualises in 3D, objects belonging to a monument but presently located elsewhere, for example in a museum. The project’s activities include both new digitisation as well as the conversion of some existing 3D data into formats which are accessible for Europeana users. The project’s anticipated impact is making accessible through Europeana an unprecedented quantity of high-quality, 3D, well-organized and attractive information about the masterpieces of European architecture and archaeology.
KMKG is partner in this project and produces ca. 450 3D models of objects out of their Antiquity collections.

Chris Vastenhoud, c.vastenhoud@kmkg-mrah.be
Website:  http://www.3dicons-project.eu/