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Even better than the real thing? – British Museum & 3D prints

The British Museum has just announced that it is going to make available 3D models of some of its artefacts, that anyone can use to create 3D prints, or view from different angles on screen.

3D prints are in some ways better than the actual artefacts in the museum, as they can be studied from any angle & handled without worrying about damaging a priceless treasure. On the other hand though, no matter how realistic they might be, they are not the actual object – they do not carry its history & they do not typically contain the depth of information, that might allow later studies using newer technologies, to understand more about the piece (e.g. to more accurately date it, to analyse the chemical makeup of the surface etc).

In the past, the British Museum has provided copies to the original owners of disputed works [1] In this case though, one wonders why it can’t be the other way round – that the British Museum keeps the copy & the actual treasure is returned to its rightful owners.

You can view the artefacts currently available for 3D printing at the Sketchfab website [2].

The statue of Amenhotep III is among those available to be 3D printed [3]

The statue of Amenhotep III is among those available to be 3D printed

Slash Gear [4]

British Museum now lets you 3D print artifact replicas
Oct 31, 2014

3D printing is slowly but surely becoming more available to the average consumer, and the possibilities for it are vast. While the technology is being used to tackle projects as expansive as home construction and food in space, it is also being utilized at the simpler level for creating things like replacement knobs and personalized action figures. Among those simpler uses is the ability to print your own replica of historical items.

Do you fancy have a replica of Amenemhat III’s granite bust? Now you can, thanks to a new collection of downloadable 3D models the British Museum has made available through Sketchfab, which is the first service to host the collection.

It looks like the British Museum plans to make more 3D models available in the future, but for now there are 14 available to download, included among being: the marble portrait of Julius Caesar, the Colossal marble bust of Zeus, giant scarab beetle, Horus falcon statue, Hoa Hakananai’a, and more.

This is only a small representation of the 3D models hosted by Sketchfab, which now includes a large selection of downloadable files. A quick look at the models available for download reveals things like Christmas tree decorations, generic replicas of ancient weapons and tools, smartphone cases, and even a golf wheel.