Published March 30, 2023 | Version v1
Dataset Open

Dynamic Drawings - restored interactive 3D visualizations

  • 1. Open Universiteit
  • 2. Huygens Institute


Dynamic Drawings - restored interactive 3D visualization


As indicated on the original project website [1], the Dynamic Drawings in Enhanced Publications project “explored ways to enrich scientific papers with such visualizations, from authoring to publishing and archiving them. The project involved publisher Brill, researchers from HuygensING, the scientific data archive DANS and game developer from Wild Card. In nine months they worked collaboratively on various instruments or processes that have been described in 17th century texts.”

Dynamic Drawings was "part of a joint venture of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije University Amsterdam (VU) and the KNAW to support research in the digital humanities that focuses on collaboration between research institutions, non-profit organizations (e.g. cultural heritage institutions) and private companies in the creative industry to develop innovative digital research methods and new modes of valorization of humanities knowledge" (Van den Heuvel et al., 2013). The project was a collaboration between a historian of science (Museum Boerhaave), a game developer (Wild Card), scientific programmers (DANS) and a publisher (Brill Publishers).

More specifically, the collaboration led to six interactive visualizations. As indicated by Van den Heuvel et al. (2013), these visualizations were not merely illustrations, but interactive scholarly multimedia annotations.

List of visualizations:

  1. a Mill model devised by Agostino Ramelli (2013a)
  2. the mathematical optimizations of Fortifications (2013b)
  3. Rene Descartes' light refraction model (2013c)
  4. Swammerdam’s microscopic drawings (2013d)
  5. Early Modern educational materials on Surveying / Triangulation (2013e)
  6. an interactive Astrolabe (2013f)

However, the interactive applications that were made during Dynamic Drawings ceased functioning, due to the Unity plug-in for the Web which was not supported anymore. As the project took a "best practice" approach to the archiving of project resources, all original source files were archived and still available via the DANS EASY data repository (see links below). In 2020, these files were put under an open CC-0 license.

Within the Virtual Interiors project (2018-2022), the interactive models were restored and resurrected. Due to changes in the Unity editor in the meantime, some of the aspects of the models had to be reverse-engineered. This process will also be documented in an accompanying paper (Huurdeman, van den Heuvel, Posthumus, forthcoming).

Project documentation:

van den Heuvel, C. M. J. M., Hoogerwerf, M. L., Cocquyt, T., Gilissen, V., & Thijssen, M. (2013). Dynamic Drawings in Enhanced Publications. Eindrapport KNAW PPS project. Available via:

Original data deposits from 2013 (DANS EASY):

1. Ramelli Mill:

2. Fortification

3. Descartes Refraction

4. Swammerdam's microscopic drawings

5. Surveying / Triangulation

6. Astrolabe

Live demo's of the restored visualizations:

  1. Ramelli Mill:
  2. Survey:
  3. Astrolabe:
  4. Refraction:
  5. Fortification:
  6. Swammerdam drawings:

Repository file structure:

Original research underlying the interactive visualizations can be found here.
In this dataset, the following files are provided for each visualization (#1 - #6):

  1. Unity source files (updated Unity project files and source code)
    • Unity files and settings. Including source code (Assets/Scripts folder), 3D model elements in OBJ-format (Assets/Models folder), images and GUI images (Assets/Textures folder) and Unity scene (Assets/Scenes folder)
  2. WebGL_application (exported version of the application)
    • HTML files, using WebGL technology. Exports from the Unity application, which can be uploaded to a web server
  3. 3D models (if available)
    • Exported (static) combined 3D models from the application, as GLTF and FBX files. In addition, 3D model elements (in OBJ-format) are included within the Unity source files (see above)
  4. Documentation
    • Screen_recordings. For visual reference, screen recordings of the original Unity application
    • Screenshots. For visual reference, screenshots of the original Unity application

Further information regarding Ramelli Mill visualization (visualization #1):

  • The algorithms driving the mill behavior can be found in the file Ramelli_Mill/Unity_source_files/Assets/Scripts/Mill.cs (C# programming language).
  • The documentation of the underlying algorithms is available in Van den Heuvel et al. (2013), Dynamic Drawings in Enhanced Publications (p.28-31): "The backbone of the enrichment [was] a dynamic algorithm, driving the 3D mill which was modeled after the engravings, and taking input from five sliders that adjust the variables." For further details about the original modeling choices for this algorithm, see that publication.

Further technical notes from the restoration process:

  • The Unity source files contain the editable assets and programming code used for creating the application. The development of technologies occurs at a rapid pace, as a result Unity frequently changes between versions, often necessitating changes to make the Unity source code compatible with a new version. The version in which the visualizations were created was Unity version 4.1.3f3, available in the Unity download archive, The last working version in Windows/MacOS which the source files could be opened was 4.5.5. This version was then upgraded in steps to version Unity editor version 2019.4.40f1, while correcting occurring issues along the way.
  • For scripting, Unity uses a standard programming language (C#), but the underlying names of functions supported by Unity change from time to time.  We could resolve these issues using available documentation of various versions of Unity (, and via unofficial answers to user questions posted on the Unity development forum (

Usage instructions for Unity source files:

  • Download and install Unity LTS version 2019.4.40f1 (see:
  • Add the project to Unity via Unity Hub (Open > Add project from disk)
  • Open the project
  • In the Unity editor, choose the scene “Main” under project assets
  • Run the application within the editor, or create a new build via File > Build settings. This way, custom versions of the application can be built for Windows, Mac, Linux or other platforms.


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Additional details


Virtual Interiors as Interfaces for Big Historical Data ResearchSpatially enhanced publications of the creative industries of the Dutch Golden Age 30571
Dutch Research Council