Create Your Own Nefertiti: The Wonders of 3D Printing

In “Visualizing History: Modeling in the Eternal City” by Christopher Johanson he mentions this idea of visual seduction. This struck me because I think 3D Visualization and Modeling like most of the tools and technologies we’ve looked at have an air of seduction around them. So often I feel like there is an annoyance or maybe a hint of disdain within the scholarly community with anything that qualifies as “sexy” (also what is up with academics, or at least DH academics, using sexy to describe scholarship, it’s weird, I get what they mean, but it’s weird). Several of the articles we read for this week touched on video games, and I think like DH tools video games had often gotten the brunt of the complaints of “what’s wrong with the world.” I think the work that goes into historical video games however is and can be incredible.

In LinnĂ©a’s post she mentioned how video games can be a way in for some to “serious scholarship” and I certainly think that’s true. I mentioned in my comment to her that I recently bought the Ezio collection of Assassin’s Creed because I had heard that one of the games included a reenactment of sorts of the Pazzi conspiracy. This of course made me think of the recent fire at Notre Dame, and how afterwards it came out that rebuilding help could possibly come from the team behind Assassin’s Creed Unity had worked for two years to get the details of Notre Dame right. Of course scholars have also done this work, but it is interesting that this “low art” had put some much work into historical specificity. I also of course thought about the Nancy Drew computer games I played as a kid and how several of them pushed me into a lifelong path of learning. For example, Treasure in the Royal Tower was about Marie Antoinette and was part of the reason I took French in middle school. More recently, when I was in San Diego for the Henry Stewart DAM conference, I was able to visit the Museum of Man. Inside they had 3D modeling of Mayan steles that I had seen in my Nancy Drew game Secret of the Scarlet Hand. While sure it’s silly I think ultimately anything that is someone’s “way in” to their scholarly path is a good thing.

I don’t know if anyone has been keeping up with the Nefertiti bust “scandal” but the scans have been released despite the clandestine scan being a hoax. The Hyperallergic article I linked is particularly interesting as it includes the angle of copyrighting, creative commons, and licensing issues for museums. While certainly some things should not be able to be 3D printed (read: guns) I think cultural objects being created can be an invaluable resource. In fact I became a convert (and I think maybe I’ve already told this story so forgive me) of 3D printing when I was able to hold an exact copy of the Venus of Willendorf. It was the correct weight and the correct texture of the surface and the experience really was incredible. Suddenly this object that I had learned about in my first ever art history class was coming to life. I had no idea she was so small or so heavy. All of the sudden holding her in my hands I could see how one could be reverent to the fertility object and really believe in it’s power just in the way that it was created for a sort of personal devotion in its weight and size. It felt very much like a palm stone or a rosary, and having that tactile experience to help with anxiety, meditation, or prayer. Recently, I’ve heard that there is a museum doing a 3D copy of one of their pre-columbian latin american objects with the purpose of filling it with water to prove or disprove a theory that when the object is filled with water it will whistle.

The next frontier of course becomes AR/VR. I recently participated in a study for Virtual Reality, and it was such a different experience. I could see where creating a 3D model in something like sketchup and then being able to “walk” through it could make a huge difference in certain areas of scholarship. Certainly places that have been destroyed but we still have plans or photographs for could benefit from VR. In terms of AR I think we’re already somewhat there. For example at the Nasher, at one point (it might still be up, I’m not sure) they had a projector setup that projector color onto one of their Medieval statues that they thought originally would have had color to give the audience an idea of what it may have looked like. I know I tend to be on the Polyanna side of these arguments, but I do truly think that 3D modeling and AR/VR technologies have the chance to change the discipline and the way that museums are able to function in society.