Colour & Shape: Using Computer Vision to Explore the Science Museum Group Collection by Cath Sleeman and Stephen Bennett

Online museum collections provide a treasure trove of objects to explore, and allow the public to view a much larger proportion of a museum’s collection than they could see by visiting the museum in person.

This article analyses over 7,000 photographs of objects held in the Science Museum Group collection (which contains five British science museums). These photographs allow us to study the form of objects — their shape, colour and texture.

Preliminary analysis of the photographs suggests that everyday objects may have become a little greyer and a little squarer over time. We also find and celebrate the most distinctive objects in the collection, from typewriters to table telephones. And this analysis lets us spot small patterns that we might have otherwise missed, such as the bright blue hues within 19th century pocket watches.

As computer vision methods continue to improve we will be able to extract and visualise further insights from the Group’s collection and learn more about the objects that fill our lives.