The Manacor Museum in Mallorca, Spain was founded in 1908 as an archeological museum, but has since evolved into a true historical museum, showcasing objects from across the historical spectrum. Even the building itself is of historical interest, having been constructed in the 13th century. The objects themselves are displayed behind glass cases or in cordoned off areas, but as many of them were objects of use, they seem to cry out to be held. Unfortunately, such handling can cause significant preservation problems and so most museums have become churches of ‘look, but don’t touch.’
Now, however, 3D printing is helping museums to bridge that gap in the sensual experience and the Manacor is the latest to take advantage of the technology. They are starting out with a small exhibit of 12 exact replicas of objects in their collections that have been reproduced and are being offered to the waiting fingertips of the museum’s public. The objects selected for recreation were chosen by the museum staff and then scanned using advanced photogrammetry performed by Néstor F. Marqués.
All of the objects have been 3D printed at full size so that the museumgoer can really understand how the objects looked and felt to those who were interacting with them when they were created. In addition, great attention was paid to recreating the smallest details, being printed with a layer precision of between 200 and 100 microns, and some even as fine as 50 microns when smaller details were an integral part of the object’s presence. The objects were not quite ready to act as replicas of the original until they were finished and painted by hand, by experts Margalida Munar and Bernat Burgaya, so as to be nearly indistinguishable from the originals.
The exhibit of the 3D printed replicas is set to be available to the public until July 15, but it’s more than likely that the replicas won’t just be assigned to some dusty storage bin. Instead, the museum recognizes the potential of these objects to reach out to a wide variety of audiences, including visitors with vision impairments, who might otherwise not be able to experience the displays that the museum has to offer.
This type of 3D printed replication is becoming an increasingly common practice in museums as it allows them to inexpensively create interactive exhibits that work to draw their visitors into the experience of the objects on display.
The use of 3D technology not only helps to produce the objects in their physical form; it has been repeatedly demonstrated to be the most effective way to preserve the information about their physical aspects without causing any damage to the original objects themselves. Ironically, it is this no-touch approach that allows museums to create more possibilities for hands-on interaction than ever before.
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