A repository is a central location in which data is stored and managed, and we have plenty of them in the 3D printing world – popular examples include GitHub and Pinshape. Now, we can add another to that list – Wikimedia Commons, a media file repository that uses the same wiki-technology as Wikipedia. It makes public domain and freely-licensed educational media content, like images and video clips, available through its own language, and is maintained by hard-working volunteers.

Wikimedia projects have long used audio, video, and 2D images, but up until this week, users were unable to upload 3D models of objects. In 2015, the highly sought-after feature was listed at #11 on the Community Tech Wishlist.

“It would be nice if Wikimedia develops its infrastructures to be able to host free 3d works, just like what Github and even thepiratebay! did while ago,” wrote Wikimedia Commons user ebrahim. “Image thumbnail of a 3D model can be used on content articles also, just like PDF files and video clips. Wikimedia foundation should keep itself relevant on new ways and new interests of FOSS communities.”

File: Bird Figure Nigeria CNCC 1937.2.stl

By the times the votes came in, it was obvious that others agreed, and members of the Multimedia team at the Wikimedia Foundation “are excited” to bring the 3D model upload functionality to Wikimedia. This isn’t merely a piece of exciting news, but a BIG. DEAL.

Tens of thousands of 3D object files are now available under licenses compatible with Wikimedia from popular sources such as MyMiniFactory, Sketchfab, Thingiverse, and Youmagine, and from organizations like the Smithsonian and the European Space Agency that frequently produce their own 3D models.

Wikimedia is starting out small, and its new 3D model upload feature will initially only support the common .STL file format, though more complex file types will be considered in the future. When viewing 3D files on Wikimedia, you’ll see a static preview image, which will load an interactive Multimedia Viewer extension once clicked. Objects and models, like a Nigerian bird figure, can then be manipulated, so users can see them from several different viewpoints on Wikimedia sites.

According to a blog post by Wikimedia Foundation Community Liaison Chris Koerner and Ramsey Isler, Product Manager, Reading Product, for Wikimedia Foundation, “Every advancement in culture and knowledge is built on top of the hard work of pioneers who left something wonderful behind.”

Model by Georges Dahdouh, New Palmyra, CC0.

With this in mind, the first 3D model officially uploaded to Wikimedia Commons was a file created by the #NEWPALMYRA project, in honor of Bassel Khartabil, a member of the Free Knowledge community and originator of the project that eventually became #NEWPALMYRA.

Khartabil used photography as a way of preserving important Syrian historical monuments, which later became the basis for 3D models of Palmyra, an ancient Syrian city that members of ISIS have nearly destroyed. Tragically, Bassel was executed by the Syrian regime in 2015.

File: Asad Al-Lat.stl

In their blog post, Koerner and Isler included a personal note from engineer Gilles Dubuc, who helped make Wikimedia’s 3D feature launch happen:

“In 2016, I attended the Wikimedia Hackathon in Jerusalem. I planned to find and work on the community wishlist project with the highest impact, and I discovered the community’s desire for 3D file support. Since I was familiar with 3D and had worked on the Media Viewer extension, I felt like this was a project where I could make a difference. At that time, the #NEWPALMYRA project, the destruction in Syria, and the fate of Bassel Khartabil were fresh on my mind. The great importance of these free knowledge projects inspired me to work on 3D integration for Wikimedia projects to give a better platform for the hard work that people like Bassel put into documenting history.

“I doubt I would have appreciated the full impact of this project if it weren’t for #NEWPALMYRA and Bassel. It is critical that humanity can see (and print!) what cannot be visited in person anymore. This is why, in memory of Bassel Khartabil, we have collaborated with #NEWPALMYRA to make the first 3D model uploaded to Wikimedia Commons be from that project.

“I thank the Multimedia team for picking up my hackathon project, improving it, and releasing it for all Wikimedians to use. I can’t wait to see the great content editors will upload.”

To create your own digital 3D models for sharing on Wikimedia Commons, free, open source photogrammetry tools like COLMAP and Regard 3D make it possible for nearly anyone with a smartphone or digital camera to capture objects in three dimensions. Once you’ve got that part covered, visit Wikimedia Commons to create a new account, or just log in, to upload your 3D files.

You’ll find a link to upload your files on the left of the page. Make you’ve enabled the Media Viewer when you’re viewing 3D files, so you’re able to take full advantage of the interactive 3D features it offers.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images via Wikimedia]

 

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