The Digital Collection of the Natural History Museum, London: A 3D Insect Challenge

3D render by Vladimir Petkovic.

by Kimberly Potvin

posted on 02-04-2020

It is difficult to express with words the value of cultural institutions to our society. We have libraries that give people the ability to explore historical and contemporary texts and manuscripts, letting one’s imagination flourish. There are museums with vast collections of art, artifacts and other objects that allow us to experience creativity and knowledge in new and spectacular ways. We have agencies that help us reach for the stars, explore the unknown and discover all the beauty that the Earth and beyond has to offer. The Adobe Stock 3D Team has always been proud to support the spirit and richness of these cultural institutions. With amazing collaborations like NASA and the Rijksmuseum, we have pursued the goal of offering works from these reputable sources in new and unique ways.

This year, Adobe Stock 3D is proud to announce a mesmerizing collaboration with the Digital Collections Programme of the Natural History Museum, London. Our goal? To engage, educate and inspire creatives, artists, scientists and others around the world to learn more about the Museum, its mission, its collection and the art of 3D design. This exciting initiative includes:

The Art of 3D Insects collection on Adobe Stock, inspired by the Digital Collections Programme of the Natural History Museum, London.

As part of this endeavor, we want to share some of the history and vision of the Natural History Museum, London. The Museum’s origins stretch back to 1753 when the British government purchased Sir Hans Sloane’s collection containing over 71,000 objects including books, drawings, plant specimens and other items – founding the British Museum. In 1856, Sir Richard Owen took charge of the British Museum’s natural history collection. Unhappy with the lack of space for its natural history specimens, Owen convinced the board of trustees that a separate building was needed to house these national treasures. The site selected was at South Kensington and is where the Museum remains to this day. The Museum remained part of the British Museum until 1963 and was officially renamed the Natural History Museum in 1992.

Since opening its doors, the Museum has been an invaluable scientific and cultural institution. With a collection of over 80 million specimens (including the 82+ foot skeleton of Hope the blue whale) and more than 30 million insects from around the world, scientists, visitors and educators use this collection to tackle the fundamental scientific and societal challenges of our time while learning and expanding their knowledge about the history of the world.

Drawer of birdwing butterflies from the Digital Collections Programme of the Natural History Museum, London. Used with permission.

In 2014, the Museum took a strong step towards accessibility and began the Digital Collections Programme. According to Jennifer Pullar, Communications and Resource Manager for the Digital Collections Programme at the Museum, “We are mobilizing the world’s natural history collections to help people and the planet thrive. This is a critical time period, during which humans have had a major impact on the distribution of biodiversity and radically affected landscapes through an increased consumption of natural resources, pollution and climate change. By sharing our collections online we have transformed access to this data, creating an audience that is at least ten times greater than the number of scientists able to visit our physical collections.”

To date, the Museum has digitized and released nearly 4.5 million specimens, representing around 5% of the collection. The scientific research incorporating this data informs topics like agriculture, biodiversity, evolution, ecology, species distributions and human health. However, the Museum still looks to increase its engagement with new audiences. That is why, this year, the Museum has collaborated with the Adobe Stock Team to do something unusual – to make a curated collection of objects from their collection available in 3D.

Left: Cyclommantinus bicolor from the Digital Collections Programme, Natural History Museum, London. Right: 3D model of Cyclommantinus bicolor inspired by the Museum collection on Adobe Stock.

Both the Digital Collections Programme at the Natural History Museum, London and Adobe Stock 3D are proud to release this collection of 3D insect models into the world. We look forward to the unique ways that these assets may be used and the beautiful works that will be created in Dimension for the ArtStation challenge.

For more information, visit the Digital Collections Programme at the Natural History Museum, London along with the ArtStation, The Art of 3D Insect’s Challenge. We truly cannot wait to see what you can create.

Topics: Creativity, 3D & AR, Emerging Technology

Products: Stock, Creative Cloud, Dimension