Digital Archive of the future

The 3D Digital Archive of the Future is a VUW Summer Scholarship 2015 exploring the role of 3D media within the context of libraries. The summer scholars for this project were Dylan Hughes-Ward and Ryan Achten alongside Ruth Barnard contributing as a Research Assistant. Our research showed that 3D media is more effective in a library when it is used as tool to aid learning, enhance narratives and encourage interactive engagement with existing archives.

We found that the most successful interactions with 3D printers were those that connect the user with digital media such as augmented reality, gesture interaction and other user interactive media as they enable visitors to engage playfully within the library space while discovering and learning.

Four main scenarios were developed and video demonstrations of these were created. The end result of this summer scholarship resulted in an exhibition of the scenarios at the National Library.

The opportunity to work closely with the National library to produce speculative scenarios to push the use of technology within the library was exciting and allowed me to have my say within the team and alongside senior lecturers. I was the researcher in charge of 3D modeling and printing, brainstorming with the other scholars and contributing to the filming of the many videos we produced.


World War One - A Contemporary Conversation exhibition commemorates the Great Wars Centenary by encouraging the public to reflect on WWI and think about their connection with war today. Through 3D animation, augmented reality and 3D printing three exhibits have been brought to life for the visitor. Each demonstrates in a unique way how 3D manipulation of photos and maps engages the audience and facilitates interest.


In ‘A Child’s War’ exhibition, 3D models act as sign posts for exhibits that can be interacted with. The interaction takes place via a smart device, using the 3D print as a reference image for accessing a variety of educational and contextual media. The exhibition uses 3D models as signposts for further interaction. Characters within the exhibited text can be can be printed to enhance the learning experience and can be used to promote play as a form of learning.


Paul Jenden (1955-2013) was a writer, director, choreographer, set and costume designer. The National Library has a collection of his costume and set designs which we have used to demonstrate how 3D prints are interactive and engaging. Although our target audience is children, the simple layout and colourful prints could also appeal to other demographics.


My National Library is an online system interlinked with the National Library’s existing website. It is a space for the user to collect information in a variety of mediums such as photos, written text, paintings, audio recordings and 3D files.

The 3D prints are connected to information that links the user to the 3D model’s relevant research and stored information. This connected meaning, in combination with the physical interaction with the model, helps to evoke a meaningful connection, between My National Library and its audience of the general public educators, students, researchers, genealogists and more.

In this example, the user can scan and print their heirloom, attach information to the print and link the information they find to their My National Library profile to contextualise the model.

Through augmented reality on the user’s phone, a new layer of information is added to the model. This information can be shared, which enables the augmented reality to be accessed and viewed by others.


Summer Scholars: Ryan Achten, Dylan Hughes-Ward. 

Research Assistant: Ruth Barnard. 

Supervisors: Simon Fraser, Walter Langelaar, Tim Miller, Rhazes Spell.

National Library Liaison: Peter Rowlands.

Exhibition Curation: Simon Fraser

Exhibition Graphics: Liane McGee (Fortyfive Design Studio).