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Home » News » Facility for Arts Research Summer Faculty in Residence Richard Urban

Facility for Arts Research Summer Faculty in Residence Richard Urban

Published July 16, 2015

We’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Richard Urban at FAR this summer, and are excited to share an update on the research that he has been conducting at formLab. Richard writes:

After learning about the resources and expertise available at the Facility for Arts Research, I was eager to spend my summer as Faculty in Residence. FAR is helping me get a jump on a new research agenda that seeks to understand how libraries, archives, and museums are adopting 3D technologies to achieve their missions. This research builds on my prior work developing best practices for 2D digital imaging of collections and developing large-scale aggregations. But 3D technologies are very different from what I’m familiar with. With the help of Windam Graves, I’ve been learning about 3D scanning techniques, software, and printing using FAR’s MakerBot. This work has directly informed the development of a survey that will be distributed in the next few weeks. More importantly, my time spent at FAR has provided a solid foundation for a long-term research agenda that will help libraries, archives, and museums better prepare for future 3D digitization projects.

During my time at FAR, I have begun to develop a registry for 3D digital collections currently available from libraries, archives, and museums. While some organizations, like the Smithsonian’s X3D project, are using their own websites, the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago are directly sharing 3D models through shared services that let their collections mingle with other publicly available resources. These and other museum collections are available for you to download, print, and re-mix into your own work.

Why did I choose to print these particular items? Years ago I encountered a copy of Mill’s life mask of Lincoln that was mistakenly labeled as a “death mask.” When I’d posted the photo to Flickr, someone had linked to a story that explained that Lincoln (given the nature of his death) never had a death mask made. Because Mill’s cast was made mere months before Lincoln’s assignation, it was widely copied after his death. I’ve been fascinated with these various versions of Lincoln’s life masks ever since. I’d seen the copy of Mill’s life mask that is part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which is the basis for this 3D model provided by the Smithsonian.

As part of my survey, I’ve been trying to identify different kinds of collection types that are using 3D printing. The Homo erectus specimen is “one of the most complete skulls of Homo erectus from Africa….dated at 1.75 million years…” In addition to representing an example from a fossil collection, I thought it would make an interesting juxtaposition alongside the Lincoln life mask. I’m hoping that Ganesha will help remove the obstacles to additional funding for my work.