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Digital model of the Old Library’s statues

Statues in Old LibrarySince it was built in 1861, Univites who choose to work in the College’s Old Library have studied alongside our most iconic readers, Lords Eldon and Stowell. These heavyweight scholars have occupied a few spaces within the Library over the decades, but since the early 1990s they have resided upstairs in the west end of the Poynton Reading Room. Eldon and Stowell have been loyal mascots for the Library throughout the 160 years that we have hosted them and, indeed, the genesis of the Old Library building lies with the “colossal work in marble”.

The Library Team is pleased to report that the appeal of Eldon and Stowell extends beyond the Univ community (although we had always suspected as much). In the first week of January 2024, we welcomed Keith and Rita Wood to the Old Library so that they could photograph our iconic marble statues.

Keith Wood’s digital recreation of the 1851 Great Exhibition

In his retirement, Keith has embarked on an ambitious project to digitally recreate the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, held in Hyde Park’s Crystal Palace in 1851, as a virtual reality simulation. The Great Exhibition was the first in an international series of World Fairs that showcased achievements in industry and culture. Univ’s statues were commissioned by Lord Eldon’s grandson especially for the Great Exhibition, whereupon they were displayed prominently in the ‘British Department’, in the western nave of the Crystal Palace.

The statues at the Great Exhibition, from “Remembrances of the Great Exhibition”, p.34

The statues in situ, from “Remembrances of the Great Exhibition”, p.34

For his project, Keith has been photographing all extant exhibits from the Great Exhibition and using photogrammetry software to create 3D digital replicas. Photogrammetry involves taking a series of photographs of an object, so that 3-dimensional information can be calculated from the 2-D image data. Software calculates the distance between various points to recreate the shape and depth of the object, but texture, light, and shadow information is also recorded in the process.

To capture our statues, Keith took images from various heights and angles, working round the sculpture clockwise, adjusting the camera angle and height on each revolution. The camera was left in each position long enough to capture three images using a monopod (a smart phone on a long pole), plus two images using a tripod. Duplication avoids the occasional blurry image causing loss of a particular view. In total, Keith took 2720 images. Having removed duplicates and photos taken whilst the camera was being repositioned, 792 images were used to generate the 3D model.

Photogrammetry software recreates the statues from digital photos

We think Keith’s digital model, which you can see in full here along with his other models, is a fantastic success! You can see that the statue’s shape has been faithfully recreated, while the qualities of the white marble have also been rendered successfully. The definition in the statue’s hands and the folds of their robes really does justice to the level of artistry and technical talent that created the marble originals.

We also love that the photogrammetry method has accurately picked out the surface texture of the marble, including the statue’s scratches, notches and other imperfections. Keith’s model has authentically recreated the wear that comes from 173 years of existence, and the scars that our Lords bear from their many years of exhibition, relocation, and students sitting on them.

3D model of the Eldon and Stowell statue

3D model of the Eldon and Stowell statue

To watch a video of Keith photographing and digitally rendering Univ’s statues, see his YouTube page.

To see all of the individual exhibits that Keith has modelled so far, see his portfolio on Sketchfab.

To see Keith’s progress in recreating the Crystal Palace interior and the layout of the Great Exhibition, go to his Steam page.

Published: 27 February 2024

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