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Making 3D Prints Part of the Museum Experience

by Samuel Foulkes, Director of Braille Production and Accessible Innovation, Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired


accessibility , Accessible Expressions Ohio , 3D printing , Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired , tactiles

Sunday, May 12, is the final day to see Accessible Expressions Ohio, the statewide art exhibition featuring Ohio artists, of all ages, with disabilities. Even members of the visually impaired community can experience “the most accessible and diverse art presentations ever displayed at the museum” with touchable 3D replicas of sculptures. Read on to discover how.

The Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired created 3D-printed replicas of sculptures featured in the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Accessible Expressions Ohio exhibition. Six months earlier, Clovernook began working with museum curators and collections managers, to scan and print objects held in CAM’s collection. These included physical replicas of ancient Roman and Egyptian statues, 19th century African and European sculptures, and 3D contemporary art.

Our technicians utilized an Infrared (IR) 3D scanner and rotated the handheld device around each object to create a 3D digital file—this process typically takes five to ten minutes. The digital file then undergoes light editing and after is ready to be printed on a 3D printer!

The skills learned through these earlier sessions with CAM allowed us to then create accessible tactile resources for Accessible Expressions Ohio. We selected, scanned, and printed several objects—in front of an audience of CAM staff—to illustrate how this technology can be brought into the realm of artistic experience. Installation staff mounted the final touchable 3D pieces in the exhibition.

Through the eventual inclusion of tactile representations as an integral part of Accessible Expressions Ohio—and ideally future exhibitions—rather than available on request, Clovernook and CAM hope to provide a more independent cultural experience for visitors who are blind or have low vision.