Arc Eye Technology Captures Artifacts in 3-D

When our museums were shuttered during the Covid-19 pandemiclarge spikes in our online traffic revealed an appetite for more digital content. While the need for social distancing proved to be temporary, expanding access to our artifact collection, both digitally and in person, has remained a priority. 

Images and Video

Funded by a series of federal grants from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we began digitizing our collection of 250,000+ Detroit-related artifacts in 2010. The product of this first project resulted in our online collection, where visitors from around the world can search more than 45,000 photographs, documents, postcards etc. Thanks to another IMLS grant in 2014, the Society was able to digitize more than 500 high-definition transfers of historic Detroit film and video tape; all of which are accessible on the Society’s YouTube page  


Coming Soon - 3-D

While the digitized photo and video collections certainly increase accessibility to the artifacts we hold in public trust, at its core our collection is focused on three-dimensional artifacts: things like automobiles, architectural elements, baseball uniforms, and bumper carsImaging them is much more difficult and time consuming than scanning photographs, for example  

To this end, in early 2022 the Society purchased and installed an automated 360-degree Arc Eye photography capture system that includes a 31’ diameter photo stage, lit by an adjustable LED “light cloud” suspended from the ceiling. For image capture, a 32-megapixel camera is mounted on an automated arm that rotates around the circle at the push of a button, snapping pictures as it moves. This project was generously funded by the Margaret Dunning Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. 

The technology will allow us to capture multiple-view, high-resolution still images and videos of nearly all the three-dimensional artifacts in our collection. Initial work has concentrated on our uniquely-Detroit collection of 70 automobiles.  

Vehicle photographs will include both exterior and interior views, allowing the user to zoom in and out and “spin” the vehicles using a mouse or their fingers. The system will allow viewers from across the globe a level of detail previously available only to those who were able to visit the artifacts in person.  

While photography of the automobile collection is in progress, additional collections slated for photography in the near future include our horse-drawn vehicle and furniture collections.