Accessibility links

Uffizi, Indiana University Make Digital Copies of Sculptures

Time, acts of war and natural disasters can damage and destroy the world’s artistic and cultural objects.

More than 1,000 years ago, fire destroyed the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. In 1755, an earthquake destroyed Ribeira Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, along with artwork inside.

In modern times, the Taliban used explosives to destroy the huge Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. And, even more recently, the Islamic State group purposely destroyed much of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra..

Museums store evidence of culture and history as well as exhibit great works. A major goal of most museums is to ensure that important historical objects do not disappear forever.

The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, holds 1,250 ancient pieces of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. These objects have inspired artists, historians and anthropologists for many years. So the museum is working to create a complete and permanent record of the artworks.

Survival of shared heritage

The project is a joint effort between the museum and scientists from Indiana University in the United States. The team is using low-cost technology to create digital copies of Uffizi’s ancient sculptures.

​The process is called “photogrammetry.” It stores the art in digital form. At one time, this process was slow and costly. But not anymore said IU professor Robert Frischer on Skype. He said photogrammetry is now less costly and much faster."

“Now we can gather the 3-D data on a life-size statue in the matter of a half hour and we can process the data ... in a matter of a half hour to a couple of hours.”

The images permit the viewer to examine the sculpture from all sides. And when the viewer zooms in, the image becomes clearer.

The Uffizi hopes to have the collection completed and available on the Internet by 2020.

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA's George Putic reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

inspire - v. to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create​

anthropologist - n. a person who studies human races, origins, societies, and cultures​

digital - adj. using or characterized by computer technology​

photogrammetry -​ n.

3-D -​ adj. appearing to be three-dimensional​

zooms in -​ v. adjusting an image so it appears bigger and closer to the viewer