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Panel Recap: 3D Scanning for Cultural Heritage Preservation, Access and Revitalization

On 7 February 2023, Creative Commons hosted a panel discussion on 3D scanning, preservation, access and revitalization of cultural heritage. Missed it? Not to worry, it was recorded. 


Here are some of our top takeaways from discussion:   

To increase access to cultural content, advocacy efforts that appeal to museums’ higher values of making cultural works available to everyone work far better than fear! When you plan programs, think about the “good actors” you want to empower, rather than worrying about the “bad actors.” They will be “bad” regardless of the barriers you put up against them, as Michael Weinberg shared. Using SMK, The National Gallery of Denmark as an example, Jonas Heide Smith noted: “We work to make things as accessible as possible. Some plaster casts are in better shape than the statues outside.” Smith also noted how engaging with participants improves their digital offerings. 
We have an opportunity as a community to explore how 3D scans might offer greater access to artifacts that are disputed for repatriation. Cosmo Wenman was curious to see how institutions might repatriate objects, but possibly retain scans of them. He also noted other tactics with institutions: “I used freedom of information laws to release scans of public domain materials… Institutions leverage secrecy of their policies to preserve their commercial interest.”
There is no global consensus on the public domain yet, the policies that should govern it, and what the public domain means to different communities. Teresa Nobre stated: “How can we protect public domain works from appropriations from other intellectual property (IP) laws, like trademarks? In Europe, we have addressed the issue of 3D scans, but are still facing issues of cultural heritage laws and IP appropriation of the public domain.” Michael Weinberg noted additional nuances: “The consensus is that 3D scans of public domain material are also in the public domain, but cultural heritage institutions wrestle with questions of copyright.”
Managing the practices of 3D scans in the context of cultural and equity concerns, policy and law requires intentional collaboration and inquiry. Thomas Flynn noted the importance of continuing to ask questions not just among groups like this one, but among other groups poking at the same ideas, because “things don’t happen in isolation.” He suggested contacting indigenous community groups and other 3D scanning efforts. Flynn also asked: “How can we coordinate and bring data together on this subject?”

We at Creative Commons look forward to further engaging in these discussions, and including more views, voices and perspectives in the future. If you are interested in the topics mentioned above, please contact us at We hope to work with you in the future. 

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