Digital Heritage – the Picture Room at the Sir John Soane Museum

Screen Shot of the Virtual Tour of the Sir John Soane Museum showing the approach to the Paintings Room
Screen Shot of the Virtual Tour of the Sir John Soane Museum

The Sir John Soane Museum is my second favourite London Museum. It’s the place I choose to take people who don’t know London. What I like about it is the atmosphere. It’s not a place I go because of the collection, it’s a place I go because I’m just awestruck when I enter the doors.

Architect Soane, made a Museum of his house, filling it with architectural and sculptural pieces but also some stupendous Art, particularly paintings by William Hogarth. But that isn’t my motivation to keep going back. It’s the Picture Room (and the domed ceilings). Soane had a great collection of paintings, but not enough walls. What he did was to design the Paintings Room. When you visit you go in, admire the paintings on the wall, and the attendant comes in, opens a shutter, and behind the great paintings are another wall of great paintings. And then he opens another set of shutters, and there, is another feast for your eyes.

Now, they have made high quality digital images of the rooms, and put them together using photogrammetry into a digital model which you can explore.

So, feast your eyes on it here: (choose Picture Room from the three options).

It’s not quite as user-friendly as it might be. Firstly, when the tour delivers you to the Picture Room, you have to take over control to go in and explore the 360 degree image of the room. Unfortunately, the pictures are not clickable, so you cannot get information about them from here. Also, the ‘hot spots’ which allow you to open the shutters, only reveal themselves, on my computer, if you approach them at a certain angle.

But don’t let this put you off, I’m sure you will find your way around. So go into the Room, look around, move the cursus, and you will see little signs pop up which open and close the shutters. Really, do try it! There are a couple of other rooms to explore too.

Here is a link to descriptions of the Picture Room and the paintings.

Oh, and the Dome Ceilings? Soane was a specialist in buildings that didn’t want windows in normal places. He was the architect of the Bank of England where windows in the walls were a security risk, and also of London’s first purpose built art gallery – the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Windows reduced the space for paintings, so he designed special low domed ceilings, and the Soane Museum is full of his experimentation in the form.

Scara Brae Three D Model

Another delight is the 3D model of Scara Brae which allows you to explore the Neolithic village, and walk around it. There are labels on this one, so you do get information too.

https://www.historicenvironment.scot/about-us/news/new-digital-model-of-skara-brae-welcomes-virtual-visitors/

360 Degree Panorama Virtual Tours. My part in their development.

I was an early adopter of this form of virtual reality, setting up virtual tours of the Old Operating Theatre Museum in the 1990’s. I have a draft post of this which I have been awaiting time to finish, which I hope to finish soon….

Thanks to the Museum’s Journal article on Photogrametry of May/June 2022 for the two examples above.


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