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Making sculptural masterpieces accessible to all by 3D scanning and publishing their 3D printable files into the digital commons

Thank you to everyone who supported this project. I'm going to continue to try to make it happen, one way or another. Click here for the latest on its status and future.   —Cosmo

My name is Cosmo Wenman, and for the last year I've been 3D scanning artwork in museums and using those scans to 3D print life-size reproductions. I've been sharing my 3D printable files online so that anyone can 3D print their own copies too. You can see some of my work here: cosmowenman.com It's been a labor of love for me. I've been doing it for myself, for other art lovers, and for students and educators—for anyone who's dreamed of owning fine sculptural art, but hasn't had the means until now.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home filled with books of illustrations and prints which formed the basis for my own appreciation for the beauty, themes, and meaning in art. If you were lucky in the same way, and know how important that is, you'll want to know what's on the horizon.

Recent advances in 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies are opening up new opportunities for the average person to possess and enjoy beautiful sculptural artwork of their own. The children growing up today and tomorrow with 3D printers in their homes and classrooms are on the verge of becoming the very first generation to have an aesthetic sensibility informed by direct, hands-on access to the world's sculptural masterworks. Their cultural landscape and visual vocabulary will be richer, more complex, and more varied than ours. Sculpture and artifacts will be able to speak to them in ways that have never before been possible.

Eventually, 3D printable designs of the entire world's cultural heritage of sculptural masterworks will be available to everyone, and this project is my attempt to make that happen sooner rather than later.

Up until now I've been doing my scanning work solo, just walking into museums and scanning what was accessible. But now I've found an institution that shares my goal of freely disseminating art using every available tool.

The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Switzerland has an incredible collection of more than 2,000 high quality 19th and 20th century plaster casts of important ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. The Skulpturhalle has given me permission to 3D scan sculptures of my choosing, and to share the 3D designs without any restrictions.

This is a tremendous opportunity to bring great art into people's lives.

I will 3D scan a selection of plaster casts of important, archetypal sculptures at the Skulpturhalle and publish the scans and 3D printable files into the public domain, copyright-free, so that anyone, anywhere, can download, alter, adapt, or 3D print them for themselves.

I'll publish the 3D printable files online at Thingiverse.com, where they will be available for free, for any use, without restriction, for teachers, students, artists, art lovers—for everyone.

I will also exhibit at least one life-size bust, 3D scanned and 3D printed, from the Skulpturhalle, at the London, Paris, and New York 3D Printshows.

By backing this project, you will be publishing the very first publicly-available 3D surveys of these important works. You'll be making art history and bringing it to life.

This project will require weeks of photography and months of post-processing, 3D print-proofing, experimentation, and 3D model repair and optimization. There will be travel, materials, and some equipment expenses too. I’ve been successfully experimenting with this stuff for over a year. But now, to do it on this scale, I need your support.

Please consider taking part in this new, experimental form of art patronage, integrating yourself with art and art history, and helping to close the distance between great art and the people who love it.

Sincerely,

Cosmo Wenman

cosmo.wenman@gmail.com — www.cosmowenman.com@cosmowenman

The Skulpturhalle has been preserving high quality 19th and 20th century plaster casts of these ancient masterworks (and more):

Medusa Rondanini • Venus de Milo • Hera Farnese • Charioteer of Delphi • Bronze Portrait of Alexander the Great • Tivoli Ares • Somzée Ares • Laocoön and His Sons • Athena from Marsyas Group • Artemision Bronze / The God From The Sea • Boxer of Quirinal • Head of Athena Lemnia • Head of Ares Ludovisi • Athena Parthenos • Wounded Amazon Sciarra Type • Diadumenos • Kritios Boy • Head of Farnese Heracles • Homer • Socrates • Plato • Pythagoras • The Kaufmann Head • Virgil • Winged Victory • Praying Boy • Kore of Beroia • Pseudo-Seneca / Aristophanes • Molossian Hound • Head of Odysseus from the Sperlonga Group • Head of Menelaus from the Pasquino Group • Spinario / Boy with Thorn • Dancing Faun

I plan to scan at least 20 of these.

The Skulpturhalle's plaster cast inventory (in German) is here.

Here is a brief overview of the tradition of using plaster casts to share important artwork around the world—a tradition waiting to be reborn with 3D scanning and 3D printing.

The target names listed above are links to tweets with reference photos of the original works and a link back to this page; you can help me prioritize them and spread the word by clicking on your favorites and retweeting them.

And here's a re-tweetable gallery of all my targets. Go nuts with it.

Visit the Through A Scanner Facebook page and like or share your favorites. I've included reference links and commentary here too. Please leave comments of your own—why you like them, what you would do with them. If you're a teacher, please leave a comment about how you would use a 3D printed copy in your classroom; I'll share your idea here on this Kickstarter page.

Click here to retweet this page to your friends.

Refer people to ThroughAScanner.com

Please back this project. I can't do it without your support. Please pick a reward and level of support that works for you, and tell your friends.

“Cosmo’s work truly brings 3D printing into another realm. [He] shows that the technology is much more malleable than previously envisioned and has created some of the most impressive examples of 3D replication we have ever seen.” — Bre Pettis, CEO, MakerBot Industries

My 3D prints, which I made with a low-cost, consumer-grade desktop 3D printer.
My 3D prints, which I made with a low-cost, consumer-grade desktop 3D printer.

Demonstrations and proofs of concept I've done recently include 3D scanning and 3D printing adaptations of works from the British Museum, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Tate Britain, the Getty Villa, the Louvre, and the Norton Simon museum. They've been displayed at the 2012 London 3D Print Show, and the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.

My life-size, solid bronze adaptation of the Getty Villa's bust of Caligula was recently displayed as an example of digitization and 3D printed reproduction at a conference of museum curators at the Smithsonian.

My 3D print of Hypnos was shown at the 2013 Museums + Heritage Show in London, and is now on display at iMakr in London, along with my study of Jacob Epstein's 1933 bronze portrait of Albert Einstein and my 3D print of hominid fossil KNMER406, made on behalf of Louise Leakey's AfricanFossils.org.

This interview with the MythBusters guys' Tested.com goes into some detail about the work I do to scan artwork and prepare the models for printing.

Here are the 3D designs I've scanned and shared so far. I'd like to scan and share many, many more.

Example: A low-res thumbnail of my 3D scan of the British Museum's weathered "Marble Portrait of Alexander the Great." Click here for the higher resolution scan and 3D printable files.

There are millennia of beautiful physical forms that can be digitized, propagated, and remixed over and over again in perpetuity, starting now. They can become the foundation of an unlimited combinatorial explosion of adaptation and creation, and for untold new artwork and artforms in the coming years. Will the world’s back catalog of 3D art show up lit in pixels on our screens, 3D printed in our homes and classrooms, or embedded in our architecture or clothing? Or in something new? Mass 3D scanning and publishing projects like this are the first steps towards finding out.

This Bloomberg View column and this Tested.com interview cover some of my bigger picture ideas on scanning and printing, as does my June, 2012 video and accompanying essay, Through A Scanner, Getty:

"Propaganda of the deed." — Bruce Sterling, science fiction author and futurist

"That is badass." — Gavin McInnes, founder, VICE

"What art love looks like. In 3D." — J. Paul Getty Museum

By making this a popularly funded project, I hope to demonstrate public interest in museums and private art and antiquities collectors bringing their artwork alive by scanning and setting it loose into the popular culture. I believe that the first people, companies, and institutions to embrace opportunities like this and help shape an ethic of freely publishing 3D models of important works will be among the most influential art patrons of the next several hundred years. That can be you, me, and everyone we bring on board.

— Cosmo Wenman

cosmo.wenman@gmail.com — www.cosmowenman.com@cosmowenman

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

It will likely not be feasible to scan all of the pieces I’ve listed as targets. I will prioritize them according to a mix of public interest and practical, on-site considerations as they may arise. Of the 30 or so targets I’ve listed, I will attempt to scan at least 20, and I am shooting for getting at least 12 solid, viable (3D printable) scans.

I won’t be able to guarantee that any particular scan will turn out well.

There will definitely be some failures, but I’m hoping for a handful of gems too. Please take a look at some of the scans I’ve already published to get a sense for the quality of output I am attempting: http://thingiverse.com/CosmoWenman/collections/3d-scans-by-cosmo-wenman

My preference is to scan the pieces in full, but in some cases I may need to focus on capturing only a figure’s head. If simpler scans are progressing well and producing good results, I may risk spending significantly more time on more complex figures. But if it’s slow-going, I may pass on such pieces, or attempt only a head or bust.

The project will focus on using consumer and "prosumer" equipment and software for all stages of photography, scan processing, and printing. However, I'll make use of prototypes, experimental equipment, or higher-end tools for additional output, should the opportunity arise and such equipment be made available (and loans of such tools would be appreciated and publicly acknowledged).

Please send me any questions.

FAQ

  • For the bulk of the project, I'm planning on relying on 123D Catch, for a couple of reasons.

    First, it's free, and I need to keep my costs down. While it's true that high-end 3D scanning equipment can get more accurate results, that equipment is also expensive. 123D Catch is free "photogrammetry" software that analyses regular digital photographs of an object and reconstructs a 3D wire-frame model of the object. I'll be taking many hundreds of photos of each sculpture, from all angles, and using Catch to process them into 3D models. (For a more detailed description of my workflow routine, see here: http://bit.ly/147rhEz )

    Second, I know how to use 123D Catch. I have captured very nice models, even under some poor conditions, with it. So I expect better than average results in the near-ideal setting of the Skulpturhalle. Take a look at the quality of results I've been able to produce with Catch here: http://www.thingiverse.com/CosmoWenman/collections/3d-scans-by-cosmo-wenman

    Third, I want to focus on using the least expensive consumer-grade stuff in order to demonstrate what the average user can do. Hi-tech labs and well endowed museums have been using very high-end scanning equipment for a long time, making 3D models for their own use, in-house. That's nothing new. But improvements in inexpensive, consumer-grade solutions is where the action is right now. Growth in that market segment and demonstrations of what it can do are going to be what drives people's expectations about what kind of models museums should be *publishing* on their own.

    This project is a continuation of the work I've been doing for the last year, completely on my own, doing -- how shall I call them -- "unauthorized" scans in museums. There is no way I could have wandered the Getty, the Louvre, the Tate, or the British Museum, while using a laser scanner for more than a few minutes before being "invited" to leave. To me, the popularization of consumer-grade scanning capabilities, particularly camera-based tech, is really what is exciting right now. I suspect that it will be a force for change in the very near future. It's what I want to promote because I think it will help break the dam, and help persuade museums to *publish* their own high quality scans.

    All that said, if my project is well received and well funded (fingers crossed), and I can really take my time in the Skulpturhalle, I am planning on inviting/soliciting higher-end scanning equipment companies to either loan me equipment, or send a small team to join me for a day or two so they can demo their own equipment and add their scans to my project's output. I'd try to make it a group effort and product demo opportunity for them, and produce more scans for publication. I'm already in touch with a few.

    I will also be publishing all the original photographs, so anyone will be free to run them through any other photogrammetry software they want to try, now or in the future.

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  • Pledge $5 or more
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    35 backers

    BACKER: Thanks for your support! I'll let you know when the 3D files are about to be published.

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    24 backers

    SPONSOR: You'll be listed as a project sponsor at ThroughAScanner.com, and I'll send you a pretty postcard with updates from the Skulpturhalle during the scanning process, as well as important project updates.

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    17 backers

    SCAN SPONSOR: You'll be listed as a sponsor of a specific scan of your choice and as a project sponsor at ThroughAScanner.com, as well as the rewards listed above. Sponsoring a scan means your name will be associated with the first-ever publicly available 3D scan survey of the ancient masterwork.

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    4 backers Limited (46 left of 50)

    SCAN SPONSOR + TICKET TO THE LONDON 3D PRINTSHOW: All of the above, plus you will receive a ticket to the opening day of the London 3D Printshow, November 7, 2013, where you will be able to see the 3D printed Skulpturhalle reproduction you helped make possible.

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    SCAN SPONSOR + TICKET TO THE PARIS 3D PRINTSHOW: Same as above, except the ticket is for the Paris 3D Printshow, for the day of November 16, 2013.

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    SCAN SPONSOR + TICKET TO THE NEW YORK 3D PRINTSHOW: Same as above, except the ticket is to the New York 3D Printshow, Spring 2014 (date TBD).

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    9 backers Limited (241 left of 250)

    SCAN SPONSOR + 3D PRINT: You will receive a 3D print derived from one of the project's scans, approximately 3 to 4 inches tall. You will own one of the ancient design's first-ever realizations in this new medium. You'll be named as a project sponsor, and as a sponsor of a scan of your choice, and you will receive the postcard update too.

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    SCAN SPONSOR + 3D PRINT (UK ONLY): Same as above, except only for backers in the UK.

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    3 backers Limited (47 left of 50)

    SPONSOR + LARGER 3D PRINT: Same as above, except with a larger 3D print, approximately 6 inches tall.

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  • Pledge $1,850 or more
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    0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)

    EDUCATION SPONSOR: Same as above, plus I will 3D print a life-size bust (head and neck) of a Skulpturhalle scan for you to donate to any school of your choice.

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    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    CURATOR: Prioritize and sponsor a scan of a sculpture of your choosing, whether or not any other project backers are interested in it. You may choose any piece from the Skulpturhalle's collection, even if it is NOT on the project target list (see the Skulpturhalle's inventory). Make sure to get in touch with me before selecting this option—I'll need to verify that your piece is in the Skulpturhalle's collection, and I'll let you know if it looks feasible. If the piece looks do-able I'll do my best to scan it, and I will give you personal updates on the scan's progress from the Skulpturhalle, as it is happening. You will be listed as a sponsor at ThroughAScanner.com, and directly associated with the scan you sponsor. You'll receive a postcard, the photoprint, and the 6 inch 3D print as well.

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  • Pledge $10,000 or more
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    PATRON: You will be named as one of the project's principal patrons at ThroughAScanner.com. You'll receive all the rewards listed above as well. You may very well help spark a competition among your peers for sponsoring their own scan projects, and help bust the world's back catalog of 3D art loose into the digital commons. It could be huge. Go for it!

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Funding period

- (30 days)