Advanced Imaging at WCMA

How to find and use 3d models and interactive lighted images of art from WCMA's collection.

In addition to WCMA’s ongoing work to provide high-resolution, Zoomable digital images, we are making digital models of art in the collection. These models give additional ways of looking at objects that complement what students and other museum visitors can see in a gallery or study classroom.

If you are interested in using these models in your class, would like to discuss models for a specific object, or want to arrange a time for students to attend a workshop on building digital object models using the museum collection, contact Beth Fischer, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities.


The photogrammetry process creates a three-dimensional model of an object that viewers can manipulate in an internet browser.

These models allow people to see angles and views of an object that would be impossible to see when the art is installed in a gallery. Take a look inside the pot above, or see what it’s like to look through the eyeholes of the mask (just click on the model and use your mouse or touchscreen to drag and zoom — you’ll have the best experience if you view each model full screen).

These models can help us explore different viewing angles for sculpture or architectural fragments, see traces of the artist’s process, or explore the medium in more depth. We can use the resulting models in virtual tours, embed them in virtual environments like video games, see them in VR headsets, and even use them as the source for 3D printing.

Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)

Reflectance Transformation Imaging, also known as RTI, is also a computational model made up of multiple photographs, but RTI models are all about light and texture.

An RTI model allows the user to manipulate and mathematically enhance the light and reflectivity of the surface of an artwork, making it possible to see details that are invisible in person. If you’ve ever held a flashlight at an angle over a surface and seen the way small marks suddenly become noticeable, you’ve got the right idea. While a photo taken under raking light can only show one lighting angle at a time, an RTI model allows the end user to change the lighting in the moment to see specific features, and to change the size of the beam reflecting off the surface.

In the model here, we see the indistinct inscription on the bronze become visible, which has allowed WCMA staff to seek out expertise that helps us find out new information about the origin and complicated backstory of this work. Other models allow us to see details of materials like stone that can help us identify their origin. RTI models have also been used to study painting techniques in Indian miniatures for an art studio class and to collaborate with Williams’ Chapin Rare Book collection to study a medieval Syriac New Testament manuscript.