After having done these readings, I think there is still a full unexplored universe of what can be done with 3D printing and reproductions of objects and artifacts. Before even scratching the surface on history and art museums, just thinking about how fun and how much more interactive children’s museums could be made opens just an absurd amount of possibilities.
But, going into history and how 3D printing can change that and how we interact with our ideas of history and heritage, the idea that we can now reproduce artifacts in a way that can be made interactive, maybe even in a way that would mean rediscovering its original purpose, is simply incredible. Humans are very tactile creatures, and also very social ones. So being able to handle and even play with these reproductions together feels like it unites much of humanity. It also makes these objects or parts of history more accessible. They can now become mobile and come without the price tag of a prestigious institute. I cannot remember which article said this, but this could allow for incredible outreach programs. Imagine how valuable interacting with reproductions of art or artifacts could be. I’m imagining, in my 3rd grade ancient civilizations unit, if we had had the opportunity to crawl inside a sarcophagus or hold versions of the organ vessels that people were entombed with. Given how I interact with history, I would find it so valuable to be able to enter and interact with a life-size or full-scale reproduction of a historical building or space. Something that draws me to children’s museums is honestly the fond memories I have of being able to interact with spaces in such a different way than what is allowed (for best practice) in museum spaces. Without having access to an 18th century boat, I would love to be able to explore a replica ship, to get a sense of scale, of what it may really have been like to be out in the middle of the uncaring ocean in that vessel.
How would this better contextualize living as part of a disenfranchised group throughout history? Could this introduce an opportunity to increase empathy among those who have lacked sympathy in their pasts?
This technology has already been used in some historical and anthropological fields. Most prevalently I think of Ötzi the iceman, a 5000-and-some year-old mummy found in the Swiss-Italian Alps who was preserved by the ice he died in. Because of the circumstances of his mummification, to keep him in a good enough condition to study him further and to keep him from deteriorating, he cannot be taken out of the freezer he is kept in for more than, like, 20 minutes at a time. But to be able to display a version of him in a nearby museum, a digital scan was taken of his corpse. After the painstaking process of photographing and scanning and printing was done, the model was sent to (I believe) an anthropologist who specializes in reconstruction, where he was repainted and textured to look like the original. So that is what is now on display instead of the very fragile body. (This is all from a documentary I watched with my dad several years ago, I unfortunately do not remember what it was called or where it was found.)
All that work allows museum goers to be able to see Ötzi as he was found, see his tattoos, better understand how they got the full-body reconstruction from his remains.
I am truly overwhelmed by what 3D printing can do for this field, how versatile it is. Changing how we can understand and interact with objects and spaces. With further things like sound-scaping, I can imagine a replicated space could feel quite authentic to the actual historical thing, or at least enough so that visitors can deepen their understanding. Is the deepening of understanding not a goal of museums, to an extent?