Every time I hear something about 3D printing, I wonder how far we have come since the first mold-based sculpting process. It would have been unthinkable at that point of time that an exact replica of whatever you have in your hand can be made by someone sitting halfway across the world with a contraption that, given some time, can build itself. 3D printing is now available to everyone for a fraction of the price it used to be. Knowing this and harnessing the power of 3D scanning with some hi-tech lasers, the Smithsonian Institute wishes to make its entire collection of objects 3D printable.
Considering that the museum contains about 137 million items and that only 2% of this collection is available to the public at any given time, this project could certainly increase the reach and visibility of precious history without having to open up ‘vault’ so to speak. Affiliate institutions across the world could print the replica object and show it to the people that come visiting.
They’re creating what Rossi called a “digital surrogate,” a “new form of museum collection” that could mean a wealth of information that could be available to anyone with a computer, or at the very least, to a wide variety of museums, schools, and other interested institutions.
With the advent of the digital age, we may just be seeing a new kind of museum, with touchable and reproducible artifacts available to everyone to know and share. Moreover, the security of the original artifacts will also be increased since the originals need not be displayed all the time.
Very interesting times, indeed.