Blog Post by Sarah Younan

Sometimes working on a PhD can be dry, slow, overwhelming. And then sometimes there are days that take yo by the horns and drag you forward. Today was such a day.

I met with Gareth Loudon ( for a tutorial in the morning. Gareth’s area of expertise is, amongst others, ethnography. I picked his brain on how to go about my intended research. I hope to extend the public impact of museum objects by 3d scanning ceramic artefacts from the collections of the National Museum of Wales, and then using these scans, to:

a)     create colaborative projects with artists working in digital media

b)     make copies of the original objects through 3d print and/or traditional craft techniques in order to emerge them in everyday live.

These copies will be handed out to volunteers, to take home, to use, to contemplate, to re-emerge museum objects in the wear and tear of everyday life. Life for objects, as for people, is fraught with risk. These copies might be apreciated and cared for, they might be neglected and forgotten, they might be used out of context, they could end up chipped or broken – either way new stories will be created. Stories about interaction with these objects, about what might be the fate of the original, where it not preserved in the museum, but thrown into everyday life.

This is what my contribution to the Afterlife of Heritage project, a story, a potential afterlife tale about objects from and beyond the museum.

My next stop was the museum, there I met with Andrew Renton, head of applied arts at the National Museum of Wales. We went to a storage room and I chose two objects to scan. I have worked with 3D  scanners before ( I am using a NextEngine tabletop scanner at the moment) and was aware that scanning two ceramic objects would take up quite some time. The objects I chose were a Meissen porcelain cup, with a basket-weave moulded border, and an ice cup and cover, the cover has a little squirrel sitting on it.

It took most of the morning and afternoon to scan these objects. I prepared them by spraying them with Talcum powder, as the glossy surface of glazed ceramics can confuse the lazer of the 3d scanner. I then did some test scans to find out the optimal distance, ambient light and scanner settings. For the cup, the ice cup and its cover I did a 360 degree scan each, and further single scans for areas that were difficult to see.

As I was working with objects from the collections Andrew stayed with me, to supervise and also to learn more about 3d scanning. We talked about museums, collections, about artist interventions and about digital strategies in museums.

Andrew likes to push the boundaries of his work. As a currator he has on several occasions collaborated with artists. This has led to the production of work and exhibitions, which challenged the notion of the museum and proposde new ways of experiencing museum artefacts. Two artists who have interacted with the ceramics collections in ways, that question and challenge the museum’s traditional practise of preserving artefacts, by removing them from interaction and lived experience are Edmund de Waal and David Cushway. De Waal investigated and re-displayed objects from the ceramics collection alongside his own pieces in 2005. He removed the museum objects from their glass cases and displayed them on a large plinth, unprotected and within reach of the audience. His own work took the place of the museum objects in the glass cases.

Cushway’s project in 2012 went even further. Together with Andrew the artist removed a porcellain tea set from its glass case and the two of them sat down to drink tea from these pieces. This performance was filmed and is now available on Cushway’s website:

I see these artist’s projects as a genealogy of my own involvement.

In the digital realm any transgression is possible. Objects no longer need to be preserved; the touch of a button is enough to restore digital models to their previous state. The former observer of museum objects can become and actor.

Safe. Edit. Delete. Undo. Merge. Distort. Send. Print.

3D printers can make the digital file physically manifest, once, twice, many times, and copies of museum objects, not quite the original, but more than souvenirs, can find their way back into everyday life.