Liz Neely, Director of Digital Information and Access at the Art Institute of Chicago, was one of the first museum staff members pushing to introduce 3D scanning and 3D printing by visitors as something to celebrate an encourage, collecting a large number of community 3D scans on a Thingiverse page for the museum here.
From a post she wrote last summer when this activity first began to catch on — 3D Scanning and Printing @ Art Institute of Chicago. (And check out her paper “Please Feel the Museum: The Emergence of 3D Printing and Scanning” here!)
As the scans were cleaned up and formatted for the printers, a School of the Art Institute summer camp of 7- to 10-year-olds stopped by to watch the printing and it became clear how cool they thought the process was. The kids were enthralled as mini-versions of the Art Institute’s collection emerged from the Makerbots. They couldn’t wait to touch, share, and talk about the replicas.
3D printing and scanning of museum collections allows for an exciting new kind of access to sculptural artworks. 3D scans can be shared on websites, such as the one run by Makerbot called Thingiverse. A person can download and print his or her own gallery of artworks in preparation for a museum visit or an artist can mash up and remix scans to create something new. Tom mashed up two items from the Art Institute’s collection, the Architectural Brick with Ogre Mask, Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907) and the Mastiff (Tomb Figurine), Eastern Han dynasty (A.D. 25-220), 2nd century into the Ogre Puppy (below). This ability to transform and make your own unique collection facilitates a creative response to the Art Institute’s artworks.