Deakin University virtual reality researchers are partnering with the Arts Centre Melbourne to trial state-of-the-art imaging technology to enhance the interpretation, interaction and documentation of the extraordinary costume collection of Australian opera star, Dame Joan Sutherland.
Using scanning equipment generally reserved for monitoring skin conditions, the team from Deakin’s CADET Virtual Reality Lab is creating 3-D models of some of Dame Joan’s iconic costumes that now form part of the Australian Performing Arts Collection at Arts Centre Melbourne.
Head, Collections, Preservation and Access at Arts Centre Melbourne, Samantha Hamilton, said the 3-D models would enable increased access to the costumers for the public and other stakeholders such as academics and the performing arts community.
“Scanning the costumes allows them to be digitised for preservation purposes as well as future virtual reality exhibition displays and online platforms,” Ms Hamilton said.
Dr Kaja Antlej from Deakin’s VR Lab said researchers were able to capture detailed images of the decorative elements of the fabric and reveal the varied layers that make up these extraordinary costumes.
“Having such high-quality images allows the viewer to see the fabrics at microscale and enjoy a more intimate interaction than is possible when the costume is on display. It also provides online access to people in other parts of the world,” Dr Antlej said.
Deakin’s Associate Professor Ben Horan said the ultra-high resolution 3-D scanner used in the project is owned and operated by Melbourne-based Sinclair Dermatology and designed to scan the whole human body for melanoma detection.
“The equipment is extremely efficient and can scan an entire costume in a few seconds. It will ensure a lasting digital record of some of Dame Joan’s performing outfits, as well as give the viewing public unprecedented access to the costumes.”
The Dame Joan Sutherland Costume Collection was donated to Arts Centre Melbourne by Opera Australia in 2018.
The collection includes 30 complete costumes with accessories and represents some of Dame Joan’s most acclaimed performances such as La Traviata, Lucrezia Borgia and Les Huguenots.
“We have been looking at innovative ways to display and preserve the costumes that also provide an engaging opportunity for the public to experience and learn about these amazing objects,” Ms Hamilton said.
“The Australian Performing Arts Collection has over 690,000 items and using 3-D scanning is a revolutionary way to capture and share these iconic pieces for future generations.”
Dr Antlej and Associate Professor Horan have used similar technology to digitise artefacts and part of the excavation at a dinosaur dig in Cape Otway but this is the first time the technology has been used to capture 3-D models of costumes.
“This is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of these types of museum collections and will give people a much deeper appreciation of Dame Joan as a performer and an icon of Australian music,” Dr Antlej said.