In the 19th and well into the 20th century, the museums of the world, as well as the homes of collectors, were filled with plaster. More specifically, these were plaster casts made from the bronze or marble originals of the more notable examples of Greek and Roman sculpture. Plaster, because this was an inexpensive medium for making very accurate copies. So there’s a certain coherence in Cosmo Wenman’s current mission, which is to use 3D printing to make these classics even more broadly available than before.

It turns out that there is a repository of more than 2,000 of these sculptures in the Swiss Skulpturhalle Basel museum. Rather remarkable, considering how fragile they are. But even more remarkable is that the museum has provided Wenman with permission to 3D scan his pick of these and make them available for free download at the popular Thingiverse site. In fact, if you take a look there you’ll find that Wenman has been 3D scanning works from antiquity for some time, often tapping significant collections such as the British Museum, Tate Britain, the Getty Villa and the Louvre. But now he wants to bump this up to a new level via a Kickstarter project to scan at least 20 of the most significant works from the Skulpturhalle Basel collection. He positions the project this way:

‘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. 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.’

I think Wenman is on to something. Hopefully his Kickstarter project will catch fire and get funded, as a significant first step in freeing the world’s sculptural riches from vaults, museums and the private collections of the lucky few and making them broadly available.

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