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Met 3D: The Museum's First 3D Scanning and Printing Hackathon

Jackie Terrassa, Managing Museum Educator for Gallery and Studio Programs, Education; and Don Undeen, Senior Manager of Media Lab, Digital Media

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012

«Artists come to the Met every day to be inspired, discovering visual and technical solutions in works from every corner of the world, ranging from ancient times to the present day. They might attend a program, sketch from objects, or create their own copies of original paintings, as they have done since 1872 when the Met first allowed artists to re-create works of art on display.» In that spirit, for the first time ever, on June 1 and 2, approximately twenty-five digital artists and programmers will gather at the Met to experiment with the latest 3D scanning and replicating technologies. Their aim will be to use the Museum's vast encyclopedic collections as a departure point for the creation of new work.

Members of the Museum's digital media, education, and curatorial staff will join the artists and staff from MakerBot Industries for this invitation-only 3D scanning and printing hackathon. Our goal will be to assess the potential of these technologies to engage artists and visitors with the Museum's collections. Artists will explore different collection areas—specifically, the American Wing, Asian Art, Oceanic Art, and European Sculpture and Decorative Arts—and discuss the works of art with Museum curators and educators. Using basic digital cameras, they will photograph selected objects, then convert the photographs into digital 3D models using freely available software. Finally, through alteration, transformation, and combination, the artists will create new works, which will be printed on MakerBot's low-cost, open-source Replicator printer. As a group, we'll look at the results, discuss the creative process, and consider the opportunities these technologies hold for the Met and our audiences.

"Printing" an image in 3D has been possible for some time. The technology is widely used in the health-care industry to make hip-joint replacements, and in other instances when absolute precision is required. Art museums and research universities have also been using highly sophisticated digital scanning and printing technologies to create models of original works of art for research purposes, or to reconstruct damaged portions of three-dimensional objects. Recent advances in the industry have now made fabricator printers—and the software that turns photographs into 3D models—more affordable. In this two-day workshop, by partnering with artists and programmers who are already using these accessible technologies as creative tools, we will advance a core component of the Museum's mission to encourage the study and development of the arts, enhancing the Met's role as a dynamic site for creativity, inspiration, and exploration by artists and visitors alike.

The 3D Hackathon is just one example of how the Met is actively engaging with today's artists and fostering links between the present and the past. In the coming months we'll also be hosting a residency with the multidisciplinary artist DJ Spooky (a.k.a. Paul D. Miller), as well as performances, talks by various artists who will respond to our collections, studio programs, and much more.

Follow the 3D Hackathon on Twitter (#Met3D) and keep an eye out for future articles to learn more about the works produced during the event.

Department(s): Education, Digital Media
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About the Authors

Jackie Terrassa is the managing Museum educator for Gallery and Studio Programs in the Education Department.

Don Undeen is the senior manager of Media Lab in the Digital Media Department.

About this Blog

Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.