Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for 3D Printed Objects in Museums

September 28, 2021

Foundational Research to Inform Preservation Guidelines for 3D Printed Objects in Museums

Jaemi Rowe

The Image Permanence Institute received a National Leadership Grant for Museums from the Institute of Museum and Library Services in the amount of $375,543 to support a three-year research project that will identify critical preservation challenges associated with 3D printed materials and technologies found in museums and develop resources that will support 3D printed object preservation.

The rapid growth of the 3D printing industry and the continued rise of 3D printed objects poses a challenge for collections stewardship, as museums will be responsible for preserving the material record and history of this technology. Many museums are already consumers of 3D printing technology, using it in applications such as preservation activities, storage, display, transit of objects, and education and engagement. The increased presence of 3D printed objects in collections and instances of use in preservation activities amplifies the critical need for preservation guidelines and resources for museum professionals caring for these objects. However, the scope of 3D printing in museums, including how museums create, collect, and consume 3D printed objects, remains ill-defined. The foundational research in this project will identify usage trends in 3D printing among museums as well as develop research strategies and resources that will guide the preservation of 3D printed materials.

Project activities will be led by Dr. Meredith Noyes, IPI Research Scientist, and will involve collaboration with RIT’s Center for Additive Manufacturing and Multifunctional Printing (AMPrint Center). Major grant activities will include a field-wide survey to determine the current state of 3D printing among museums, interviews and site-visits with 3D printing industry leaders to inform a web-based resource for object preservation, and the creation of a 3D printed research collection to support continued research and education. Project outcomes will be added to the 3D Printed Materials page as they are developed and will continue to be updated throughout the project period.

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