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Digitised Diseases

by Ed Hagen last modified Dec 11, 2013 01:52 PM
Digitised Diseases contains more than 1600 3D models of human remains.

On 9th December at 5pm GMT we launched the Beta version of the Digitised Diseases web site In little over a day we have exceeded 10,000 individual hits from more than 90 countries. Digitised Diseases is an open access resource featuring human remains which have been digitised using 3D laser scanning, CT and radiography. The resource focuses on a wide range of pathological type specimens from archaeological and historical medical collections, specifically examples of chronic diseases which affect the human skeleton for which many of the physical changes are often not directly observable within clinical practice. Of major interest to many will be high fidelity photo-realistic digital representations of 3D bones that can be viewed, downloaded and manipulated on their computer, tablet or smartphone.

The web site is still undergoing development and some of the functionality is still being worked on. We are aware of several glitches, which we are working to fix over the coming weeks. Users should note that Internet Explorer does not support WebGL, therefore the web site is best accessed via other internet browsers such as Firefox or Chrome. Models can be viewed online using our web interface; higher resolution models can be downloaded and viewed using Meshlab (

Digitised Diseases contains more than 1600 3D models of human remains. Given the sensitive nature of the content and the type of collections that we have accessed as part of this project we have an obligation to remind users that whilst they are free to access content for non-commercial educational purposes, any misuse of material (e.g. creation of artwork/ installations) from this resource will be taken very seriously. The Royal College of Surgeons in particular is subject to a license from the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) and is obliged to inform the HTA of any misuse of images involving their modern specimens. We would therefore ask that users are respectful in their use of this content, mindful that these are bones of real people and that users approach the resource with the same reverence that they would afford actual human remains irrespective of age. Please note that this is a born-digital resource and 3D printing is not permitted to protect the interests of the many institutions who allowed us to scan their material. Please refer to creative commons licensing CC-BY-NC-ND

The Digitised Diseases project led by Dr Andrew Wilson and supported by Jisc has been undertaken by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Biological Anthropology Research Centre and the Centre for Visual Computing at the University of Bradford and our project partners MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and the Royal College of Surgeons of England in London, with further support from Pinderfields Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and Smith & Nephew. We worked alongside associate partners to access and scan additional material from the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London, Historic Scotland, National Museums Scotland, York Archaeological Trust, The Yorkshire Museum, York Minster and The Novium, Chichester, and we thank these institutions and the many staff who supported us.

We dedicate this resource to the memory of Donald J. Ortner (1938-2012), former Director of the National Museum of Natural History and faculty within the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Bradford. Don was a longstanding friend and colleague to many and was an advisor to the project at its inception. He co-authored the major publication ‘Identification of Pathological Conditions in Human Skeletal Remains’ which remains a standard text on the subject. Various specimens mentioned within the book came from collections curated both at the University Bradford and the Royal College of Surgeons that have been digitised and are made available as part of this project.

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