Bringing the past into the digital age

Old met new when a museum's historical artefacts were thrust into the digital spotlight.
Georgia Henshall tries out a 3D scanner at the museumGeorgia Henshall tries out a 3D scanner at the museum
Georgia Henshall tries out a 3D scanner at the museum

Sculptures from a bygone age were brought into the 21st century as a university researcher demonstrated the latest 3D scanning technology at a workshop in the Harris at Preston.

As museums around the world experiment with 3D printing as a way of placing their priceless collections safely in the hands of the public, Dr Andrew Heaton from UCLan showed how the whole thing works.

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“It was really fascinating,” said Lindsey McCormick, the Harris’s fine art curator. “We picked four items from our collection to try it out and see what was possible.”

The British Museum has already begun 3D scanning to digitise some of its eight million ancient artefacts for research.

Their head of digital media says: “The core of the project is about preserving the knowledge of an object forever.”

Once recorded 3D printers can recreate the object in all its minute detail, allowing a perfect facsimile of the artefact to be handled while the real one is safely stored away.

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“Making reproductions of particularly fragile objects could be very useful,” said Lindsey. “It is not something we would like to do with the entire collection, but in certain cases it could be valuable.”

The 3D session was held in the Harris’s new MakerSpace area – intended as a place where people can gather to make things and share knowledge and ideas.

“It was one of a number of workshops we have had since the space opened,” explained Lindsey. “This was an introduction to 3D scanning with Andrew telling us about the technology behind it, how it can take photographs and transfer them into virtual reality on screen and how to create three dimensional images which could then be printed on a 3D printer.

“We are looking at what sort of things it can inspire and spark in people’s imagination.

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“We had a mixed group at this workshop. Some were interested in the technology and some others were more interested in what possibilities there are with 3D scanning.

“But MakerSpace is not just about tecky things, we’ve had sessions on painting, dressmaking and costumes, quite a broad use of the space.

“We’ve had a very varied programme throughout October and we are planning some exciting things for November. So watch this space.

“They are free sessions. Some are just drop-in, but others people may need to book for.”