maandag 13 mei 2013

Smart Replicas at MuseumNext Fringe Symposium

Smart Replicas: bringing heritage back to life
an introduction (in English!)
for more information look at

treasuries of objects

Our museological heritage is a collection of objects that has been collected, categorized, grown and preserved over the course of centuries; objects which we value for their historical, cultural and social context; objects that play a key role in the image of our history and our identity. Our history is examined, reconstructed and visualized through these objects. But how do we relate to all these stored items? What is the relevance of these objects for us at this time? And what is their significance in a rapidly digitizing society?

Museums and cultural heritage sites are the “institutions” who manage this heritage; storehouses of objects, stories, images and historical knowledge. The conservative way these objects are made accessible you must to go to a museum or exhibition — means you can admire, but not touch, let alone use them. This strips the objects of their main purpose and function — their original use — and isolates them from our daily lives.

‘Enriching’ objects

The knowledge and information that museums and cultural heritage sites hold, collect and develop concerning the items they own and manage is barely accessible. It is fixed within the confines of the museum and is often reduced to a short text on a museum plaque or an item in a catalogue; the objects and information that the museum has is thus hardly accessible to the public.
In the project Smart replicas, we investigate how 3D prototyping — technologies such as 3D scanning, printing and reproductions which make digital objects “real” and vice-versa — and Augmented Reality (AR) can contribute to the accessibility of these museum objects while also increasing our knowledge of the objects. How can you “reverse engineer” a museum piece? Will this allow us to take museum pieces out of the museum and put it to use again? Can you turn heritage into new design? How can you link these objects to the historical information that is stored in the museum? How would people interact with these “enriched” objects? These questions are being  examined within the project Smart Replicas.

Smart Replicas

'Smart replica' is a term we have given to replicas of historical objects made useable again by means of 3D scanning and printing techniques. 'smart' refers to 'intelligent'; these are not just copies, but replicas enriched with innovative technologies such as AR to carry of information, so that outside the museum they can serve their original intent and provide information at the same time. That way, heritage can provide new designs; objects shaped and refined through the centuries can be used in the present. Smart Replicas is a project by Studio Maaike Roozenburg in cooperation with  4 partners: Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design and Faculty of Civil Engineering, Delft Heritage, Department of Archaeology, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the AR Lab at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague and students from Graphic Design of  Royal Academy. A team of very different parties with their own background and expertise contribute to this project: academics, students, curators and technical experts. Smart Replicas is a project in which the worlds of museological heritage, design, art history, 3D prototyping and AR comes together.

“Reverse engineering” historic items

Seven tea cups from the Boijmans Van Beuningen collection form the “base material” to explore how reverse engineering and 3D prototyping can be used to produce useful replicas of museum pieces. Previous tests have shown that a (medical) CT scanner can scan very vulnerable and “untouchable” historical objects. This does not damage the objects and meets the museum's guidelines for handling these objects. The resulting data can be converted to a digital reconstruction of the object that can be printed in a 3D printer. The aim is to combine 3D prototyping techniques with the historic porcelain techniques applied on the original cups. This includes experimenting with milling porcelain casting moulds straight from 3D models as well as printing porcelain directly. It is important that the replica is a complete designer product that invites everyday use and can lead a new life outside the museum walls.

“Smart” objects

AR brings the physical and digital worlds of an object together. This transforms it into an information medium. Or rather, AR can show the information, history, context and stories associated with the object. Each porcelain cup is a historical source, with a wealth of historical information: stories about traveling, locations, production processes, use and rituals. AR allows us to make this information visible and actually link it to the object; connecting knowledge to the object itself, outside the context of a museum. This allows the knowledge, carried by the replica, to leave the museum and enter the wide world.

A group of students from the Graphic Design department at the Royal Academy of Art is working on structuring and shaping digitized historical information concerning the cups. They can develop their own line or narrative and design it in a matching medium. Routes can be accessed with Google maps, moving images through animation and text with visual or audio stimuli. These designs will be linked to the replicas using AR. The research also includes the markers that create that link. Here we examine how to combine the historical techniques and decorations of the original museum pieces with technology aided by markers and object recognition
What is the real significance of our heritage?

With the project “Smart replicas”, we examine how 3D prototyping can be used to put heritage back to use and how AR can turn objects into information carriers outside the museum. The underlying questions we want to ask are: What is the meaning of all these stored historical objects? How do we relate to them? Are they relevant to us now? What happens when you copy them? What does this change in our perception and appreciation of the real object? What is the relevance of these objects in our increasingly digital society? Augmented Reality and 3D prototyping offer opportunities to pose these questions (indirectly), and to identify and investigate them.

The result is a trial installation in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, where the smart replica prototypes can be 'touched', used and tested by the public which will be open  in june 2013.

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