Blog Post #10

Digital modeling can do a lot for expanding how professional historians approach the study of history, its presentation, and even its preservation. Personally, it is an approach I feel the field as a whole should absolutely consider more seriously.

Please Feel the Museum is an excellent article for examining and explaining some ways in which digital modeling and 3d printing can aid historic study. I especially appreciate the idea of the “flip-flop” (though I’d love for it to have a somewhat less goofy-sounding term) and feel the Keet Saaxw whale hat in the 3d Smithsonian tours from last week’s readings is a particularly good example of this concept. I do, however, find this article’s example of combining artifacts in a 3d print to be a little silly, when there are so many more profound applications for 3D printing in a museum. For example, I recently read an article (the title of which escapes me) about art museums creating touchable copies of famous artworks, so the blind can feel the paintings. This is simply an incredible step for making art approachable for the visually impaired. I feel 3D printing could absolutely help create more touchable works such as these.

(an example of a tactile artwork)

As highlighted in the other article (and also the Sketchfab models), 3D printing and modeling can also so a lot in the field of historic preservation. Modeling and creating a replica of the Arch of Palmyra has proven an invaluable act in the aftermath of its destruction. I find the placement of the replica arch to be a little inappropriate given the destruction, it would probably be better-suited in a museum now, but regardless it is now an important physical replication of a lost antiquity. Similarly, the digital recreation of the arch and other locations in sketchfab can provide a in situ example of otherwise difficult-to-recreate models, and is an excellent learning tool. I recall a documentary that included how another Mesopotamian antiquity was destroyed by terrorists, but a 3d printed replica exists, and in its base there is a memory stick containing information about the antiquity. 3D printing and the inclusion of these information-laden USBs could potentially help preserve the past should a cataclysmic event happen. The potential for long-term preservation via 3D printed replica is pretty exciting.

Further Reading:

Liz Neely and Miriam Langer, “Please Feel the Museum: The Emergence of 3D Printing and Scanning”
Sarah Bond, “The Ethics Of 3D-Printing Syria’s Cultural Heritage”
Explore Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, Model of a Damascene Home, and Art at the British Museum

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