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Smart Replicas

Can you turn cultural heritage into new design?  Studio Maaike Roozenburg is replicating pre-industrial objects and enhancing them with innovative technology with fascinating results.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 07-02-2013

This week at Object Rotterdam Studio Maaike Roozenburg presents Smart Replicas as part of the Kitchen Review.

Roozenburg has been fascinated by ancient techniques and vessels for as long as we have been following her.  Now she is using medical CT scanners that comply with the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen’s strict handling standards to create 3d scans of some of the most fragile objects in the museum’s pre-industrial collection.

“A lot of museums have solid collections of old pre-industrial utensils,” Roozenburg says.  “Many of these had the same function then as they do now, but the production process was entirely different.  From understanding the history of an everyday object you can tell so much about civilization from the cavemen until now.”

Only about 5% of a museum’s collection of tableware is ever on exhibition.  “And even then they are presented in small glass cabinets with tiny pieces of card giving a visitor minimal information,“ says Roozenburg.  “It is such a pity because these objects were not made to be shown in a museum, but to be used.”

To combat this Roozenburg wanted to use recent developments in 3d printing to make replicas of ancient objects.  “But I did not want exact copies,” she says. “I wanted to use the designs to make new designs.”

Using the CT scans of seven tea cups from the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen’s collection, and with assistance from TU Delft, Roozenburg created new moulds of old designs.

“The scans reveal a lot,” Roozenburg says.  “None of the cups is perfect.  They have generally been damaged, thrown away, excavated by archaeologists and glued back together.  The replicas tell this whole story.”

Roozenburg also points out that in the 17th century rip-offs and copies were already being made.  “Cheap ceramic objects were being made to copy the gold, silver and crystal objects favoured by the very wealthy,” she says.

Roozenburg is making fakes of museum objects not to make them more accessible, but to make them more usable.  And  knowledgeable.

The copied cups are smarter than the originals.  Museums possess a wealth of knowledge about their objects – how they were made, what they were used for and by whom.  Also more social and cultural stories about the music, fashion and food of the times.  

Using Augmented Reality technology Roozenburg (in collaboration with students from the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague), Apps have been designed that can be accessed via markers.  The Apps reveal a fuller story of the history of each object.

“These cups I have selected end up telling the whole history of porcelain,” Roozenburg says.

During Object Rotterdam, prototypes of the seven tea-cups will be exhibited.  “People can try them, scan them and see animations as well as access music from the period,” Roozenburg says.

Roozenburg will give a lecture this Friday (tomorrow) about pre-industrial design at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen.  In May a full exhibition of Smart Replicas will open there.

This project can be followed via here.

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