Dutch art historian and designer Maaike Roozenburg creates objects to let visitors actually experience the art with their hands
In her Smart Replicas project, Dutch designer and art historian Maaike Roozenburg combined high tech 3D scanning and printing techniques with traditional ceramic techniques to create replicas of fragile museum pieces that are typically kept away from visitors hands, and sometimes even from their view.
On her website, Roozenburg writes that the historical, cultural and social heritage of valuable objects are managed by “institutions” like museums, but that these objects are made accessible to the people in a very conservative way. That is, they are stored and displayed in a museum and people can visit this place to view these objects but not touch them. According to Roozenburg, not being able to touch and feel these objects “strips the objects of their main purpose and function – their original use – and isolates them from our daily lives.”
The aim of the Smart Replicas project is to allow museum-goers to touch and interact with art pieces via replicas produced through 3D-printing technology and ceramic techniques. Rather than just exist in a museum or stay hidden at off-site locations, these objects were reproduced by Roozenburg so that museum visitors can actually experience the art within the palm of their hands.
For Smart Replicas, the designer created replicas of historical utensils such as a set of tea cups that are a part of a collection at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Roozenburg was attracted to the art pieces during one of her research trips to the museum, but the pieces were fragile objects and not allowed to be touched. She began exploring the possibility of scanning and reproducing the objects.
For the next six months, the designer shuffled between the museum and the Delft University of Technology to find a working solution that the museum would agree to. Since the objects were very fragile objects, the museum was very careful about them being handled or subjected to any type of scanning. The museum eventually agreed to non-contact scanning using a medical CT scanner. Since CT scanners are not typically used in 3D-printing, the files were converted to valid 3D-printable models by students from the university.
Roozenburg also worked with Wim van Eck of the AR Lab at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague to add an augmented reality layer to the replicas. The designer has also partnered with creative agency LikeFriends for the replicas with the AR layer. The AR layers can be viewed through an app called Junaio using a smartphone or tablet. The user will be able to view layers of details and other information when they hold up their smart device to the Smart Replicas.
The tea set replicas were displayed at the museum and visitors were able to touch and handle the replicas, as well as interact with them by holding up their smart devices and viewing the AR layers.
Roozenburg continues to work on the project with her partner organizations. More information about the project can be found on the Smart Replicas blog.