3D, museuminabox, v1

Printing Our First Bits of History

DSC04500With Museum in a Box, part of our intention is to put the experience of curation, tactile examination and learning through exploration literally into people’s hands – and what form these physical artifacts take is a fairly involved decision and one that we are interested in exploring.

On the other hand, with our upcoming residency at Somerset House in mind, we wanted to go ahead, print a set of objects and explore the possibilities of 1,000 year old artifacts shrunk down to pocket size with modern tech. So we printed our first set of objects, which you can see in the above photo: Scan the World models printed by iMakr’s My Mini Factory.

3D printing a set of museum objects for human interaction comes with a bunch of interesting considerations, informed by a variety of needs and seeing our first set has got me thinking about a few of them…

Cost

3D printing is an amazing development in manufacturing but is currently still pretty expensive. Quotes from several printers in London for a set of print ready models (meaning the digital 3D files are in the right format, cleaned up, ready to go) came in at £200 – £300.

The expense, among other things, results from a) 3D print services charging by the hour for use of their printers – the bigger the print, the longer it takes, the more it costs and b) a finer print resolution (say 0.05mm layers) takes longer to layer up than a rough resolution (say .3mm per layer). Here are some pics to illustrate what I’m talking about. Those quotes were for “economy” i.e. lowish resolution prints, by the way.

In the interests of making this a more affordable enterprise, we asked iMakr to fit our prints into a much tighter budget and they succeeded by balancing the two factors above. Which brings us to…

Size

As mentioned above, how much will prints cost is a relevant question, but maybe more importantly we need to figure out what is a good size print for a pair of human hands to touch and manipulate and for human eyes to examine. Printing at life size would defeat the purpose of miniaturizing a museum to fit in a box, printing too small means that things feel less substantial and, even worse, might break in the course of printing or use, like our tiiiiny Bodhisattva Tara:

Tuiny Bodhisattva Tara

While this may at first appear to be a big failure, this is part of the learning process we have undertaken, plus, even before we’ve begun, we have our first 3D print conservation project!

Definition & Accuracy

DSC04493What kind of a 3D print is a good 3D print? Does it need to look and feel 100% historically accurate to be useful?

Consider the print we got of the Rosetta Stone:  As you can see, the print is fairly small, much smaller than the original which stands at 114.4cm / 45in. It’s the right general shape but at this scale it’s impossible to make out the hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek figures carved on the original. Heck it’s completely the wrong colour! Do these things make it less valuable or usable?

As a replica for study it may have it’s shortcomings, but as a key, a talisman to unlocking a world of digital data and a physical artifact around which conversations can take place … it might just do 😉

All in all, I think we’ve made a great first step in our research and  with our lovely prints we can explore the issues detailed above and more.

If you have any ideas, questions or suggestions about the topic of this post or our Museum in a Box – please drop us a line!

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