Image of Parthenon Marbles at the British Museum

How 3D printing can help repatriate colonial artefacts

Brighton researchers are using 3D imaging to produce physical copies of artefacts, allowing visitors to study exhibits more closely than ever before.

These technologies can further help museums in repatriation efforts, without the need to hold on to artefacts that were taken away from their places of origin. The digital technology is being seen as a way forward as museums look to “decolonise” and repatriate artefacts “obtained” from their countries of origin mostly during the colonial era.


Manchester Museum recently returned items to Aboriginal leaders, taken from Australia more 100 years ago, and major institutions including the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum are debating the issue.

Myrsini Samaroudi, PhD candidate and Dr Karina Rodriguez, from the University of Brighton’s Centre for Secure, Intelligent and Usable Systems, have been researching digital technology which has “democratised the art of copying so it isn’t limited to big museums with generous budgets or top experts with specialist knowledge”.

In an article in The Conversation, the news site written by academics, they said: “Accessible digitisation technologies, such as photogrammetry and 3D scanning, can digitally record the shape of objects to a good degree of accuracy. And 3D printing and cutting machines can physically reproduce this digital information at an affordable cost.

“3D copies can be touched and handled by visitors and can also be customised in shape, material and size. What’s more, digital files of artefacts can be shared online and replicas can be printed in other parts of the world. And most importantly, physically printing a copy from a digital image doesn’t depend on whether the original artefact still exists or not.

“Some governments and institutions have supported the creation of copies by adopting these technologies. These include, just to name a few, the prehistoric cave engravings in Lascaux IV in France, Jackson Pollock’s 3D poured painting Alchemy, and the 900-year-old Signing Oak Tree from Windsor Great Park near London.”

Read the full article in The Conversation.

Visit the public profiles of Myrsini Samaroudi and Dr Rodriguez to find out more about their work.

 

 

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