British Museum Tells Visitors Not to Come, Use 3D Printing Instead

Going to a museum has traditionally been one of the best ways to get an up-close look at history and culture on a wide range of periods.

To bring in new visitors, museums offer a rotating list of different exhibits with a range of different focuses, from ancient Egypt to paleontology and everything in between.

However, one museum is now sending a very different message – don’t come visit, at least not if you have a 3D printer. The British Museum has recently debuted a collection of items housed in the museum that can be downloaded and printed right at home.

About the Collection

Currently, the collection offered by the British Museum only numbers 14 items available as 3D models.

They include a range of different artifacts, including a bust of Zeus, a sarcophagus made of red granite, a portrait of Julius Caesar (in marble), and a number of other statues.

The museum does intend to add more items to the collection, giving fans the chance to download, print and showcase them at home.

The Platform

While the collection debuting from the British Museum might be the most obvious area of interest, some attention should be given to the platform that made it all possible in the first place.

The British Museum partnered with Sketchfab, which is hosting the files and making them available for download. Of course, Sketchfab does a lot more than working with museums.

The platform currently has over 200,000 downloadable files for a tremendous range of items, from smartphone cases that will fit today’s hottest phones (the iPhone 6 and the HTC One, for instance), as well as Christmas decorations, and even kitchen tools (Microsoft created a mustache-shaped cookie cutter specifically for use with Sketchfab).

While the platform hosts an incredible number of items, not all of them can be downloaded. It’s up to the uploader to determine whether the design can be downloaded, and by whom.

Sketchfab also gives users the opportunity to set usage rights for their designs. While the default is to license everything with a Creative Commons license, uploaders are able to choose between options like no derivatives, for non-commercial use and more, to better suit their needs and worries about their designs being used without their permission.

The Future

Is this trend going to continue? We’d hope so. It’s good to see so much availability coming to the world of 3D printing.

It has enormous ramifications, too. Imagine being able to not only study ancient Greek history and mythology in classrooms, but to actually print out a bust of Zeus so that students can have a hands-on experience.

Talk about bringing history to life. That’s only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, here. Classroom implications alone range from printing DNA strands to recreating period artifacts.

For home use, the implications are even broader – imagine printing your own items (historic or current) for display in your home, or even for actual use (3D printed cars are already a reality).

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