Poaching Museum Collections using Digital 3D Technologies

  • Sarah Younan Cardiff Metropolitan University
Keywords: Digital 3D technologies, Museum engagement, Reproductions, Artist intervention, Digital heritage


This paper investigates the creative engagement with digital 3D models of museum artefacts and gives insight into new uses of museum collections enabled by digital scanning, editing and 3D printing technologies. Digital 3D models of museum artefacts are malleable and increasingly easy to use. Additionally, freely available 3D software has made 3D scanning, editing and manufacturing possible for non-specialists. These technologies allow users to create new artworks through the creation and transformation of digital replicas of museum artefacts. Examples of creative works, taken from two case studies that involve the creative use of digital reproductions of museum artefacts are presented in this paper. These projects are illustrative of a larger trend: the digital ‘poaching’ of heritage artefacts. This paper examines how digital 3D technologies can foster creative forms of museum engagement, democratise access to museum collections and engage users with personal forms of museum experience.

Author Biography

Sarah Younan, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Sarah Younan is a PhD student at Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff School of Art and Design. She is due to complete her PhD in ceramics at Cardiff School of Art and Design in January 2017. Her research explores the potential of digital 3D technologies to foster new types of artistic engagement with museum collections. She works in close collaboration with the National Museum of Wales. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Welsh Institute for Research in Art and Design (WIRAD) fund her research.


Annis, S. (1986). The museum as a staging ground for symbolic action. Museum International, 38(3), 168-171. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0033.1986.tb00637.x

Cameron, F. & Kenderdine, S. (Eds.). (2007). Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: a critical discourse. Massachusetts and London: MIT Press.

Certeau, M. de., & Rendall, S. (2002). The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Davis, E. (2004). TechGnosis: myth, magic + mysticism in the age of information (Updated ed. ed.). London: Serpent's Tail.

Eco, U. (1990). Travels in Hyper Reality (W. Weaver, Trans.). Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Fiske, J. (1998). Understanding popular culture. London: Routledge.

Gonzalez, D. (2015). Museum making: Creating with emerging technologies in art museums. Museums and the Web. Retrieved 11.11.2015, from http://mw2015.museumsandtheweb.com/paper/museum-making-creating-with-emerging-technologies-in-art-museums/

Goodman, N. (1969). Languages of Art. London: Oxford University Press.

Groys, B. (2008). Art Power. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Holmes, O. W. (1859). The Stereoscope and the Stereograph. The Atlantic Monthy, June, 3.

Hooper-Greenhill, E. (1992). Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge, London and New York: Routledge.

Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: a practical introduction. London: Routledge.

Keightley, E. & Pickering, M. (2012). The mnemonic imagination. Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kosnik, A. de. (2012). Fandom as Free Labor. In T. Scholz (Ed.), Digital labor: the Internet as playground and factory. London: Routledge.

Leighton, D. (2007). In the frame: investigating the use of mobile phone photography in museums. International Journal of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing, 12(4), 308-319. doi: 10.1002/nvsm.320

Lovejoy, M. (2004). Digital Currents. London: Routledge.

Marwick, A. (2013). Memes. Contexts, 12(4), 12-13. doi: 10.1177/1536504213511210

McCullough, M. (1996). Abstracting Craft: the practised digital hand. Massachusets: MIT Press.

Nightingale, V. (2007). The camera phone and online image sharing. Continuum, 21(2), 289-301.

Parry, R., Poole, N., & Pratty, J. (2010). Semantic Dissonance: do we need (and do we understand) the semantic web? In R. Parry (Ed.), Museums in a Digital Age. Oxon and New York: Routledge.

Reeve, F. Cartwright, M. & Edwards, R. (Eds.). (2002). Supporting Lifelong Learning, Volume 2: Organizing learning. London, New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Sabiescu, A. Woolley, M. Cummings, C. & Prins, J. (2015). Online Maker Communities: Craft and Engagement with Cultural Heritage. Retrieved 11.11.2015, from https://culturalheritagecommunities.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/chcomm_2-0.pdf

Newell, J. Lythberg, B. & Salmond, A. (2012). Old objects, new media: Historical collections, digitization and affect. Journal of Material Culture, 17(3), 287-306.

Shirky, C. (2010). Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: The Penguin Press.

Smith, A. (2003). Authenticity and Affect:When Is a Watch Not a Watch? Library Trends, 52(1), 172-182.

Soper, K. (2003). Humans, Animals, Machines. New Formations, 49(1), 99-109.

Thompson, K.M. (2008). The US information infrastructure and libraries: a case study in democracy. Library Review, 57(2), 96-106. doi: doi:10.1108/00242530810853982

Walsh, P. (2007). Rise and Fall of the Post-Photographic Museum: Technology and the Transformation of Art. In F. Cameron & S. Kenderdine (Eds.), Theorizing Digital Cultural Heritage: A Critical Discourse (pp. 19-34). Massachusetts/ London: MIT Press.

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), 225-246. doi: 10.1177/135050840072002