Feb 23, 2016 | By Andre

The content of museums around the world are designed and curated to be vessels that share with local populations the wonders, beauty and history that surrounds us all. Art museums share with us the beauty of the human spirit whereas natural history museums bring to light elements birthed within nature itself.

Sometimes however, the extraction of an artifact from its original habitat to a foreign museum or gallery can lead to controversy. A good example of this is the iconic bust of the ancient Egyptian queen Nefertiti. After existing, for the most part, uninterrupted in Egypt since roughly 1345 BC, the prized sculpture was discovered and subsequently dealt to a German based archeological company in 1912 before leaving Egyptian soil for the Neues Museum in Berlin.

Since then, there has been enough controversy surrounding the validity of the transfer that TIME magazine has the bust at number two in their Top 10 Plundered Artifacts list.

It is with this sense of historical betrayal that two artists, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles took matters into their own hands to free the bust by secretly 3D scanning the artifact in an attempt to free the 3D imagery of Nefertiti back into the public domain.

As you can see in the video below, the duo went Mission Impossible with a Microsoft Kinect and what I presume to be a portable computer to capture relevant 3D data from the bust without being noticed.

This covert operation was part of an artistic intervention they titled “The Other Nefertiti”. To them, it was an act to free information by means of making cultural objects publicly available to all.

And that’s exactly what they did. Three months after the 3D scan was taken, they released both a high resolution downloadable torrent and a direct download link to their 3D scan of the ancient queen on their project website. Within 24 hours, over 1,000 people had downloaded the file and have since continued sharing it with other digital art collectors, academic institutions and businesses around the world.

In addition to making the 3D digital copy available online to download and remix, the duo also 3D printed a high-resolution copy of the bust using a resin 3D printer and put it up for display at the American University of Cairo.

The effort, something I deem to be a balance between political protest and artistic expression, is meant to bring to light to the idea that history and its artifacts should be available to all. Al-Badri has said that “we appeal to [the Neues Museum] and those in charge behind it to rethink their attitude. It is very simple to achieve a great outreach by opening their archives to the public domain, where cultural heritage is really accessible for everybody and can’t be possessed.”

The pair suggest that while the museum has a scanned copy of the bust in their possession, it isn’t anything that they’ve ever made freely available to the public. Additionally, while the artists believe the museum knows about their project, the Neues Museum has yet to make any public statement regarding the digital heist.

In the end, it might be efforts like these that persuade the freeing of historically relevant artifacts, if only in a 3D printable form, to wider audiences. Other museums around the world have already embarked on similar digitizations of their collections. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, for example has 75 scanned pieces freely available on Thingiverse. The British Museum in London has has also taken part in a similar digitization process.

In the end, these efforts may not resolve the ongoing discussion of where the bust of Nefertiti really belongs, but the availability of a high resolution 3D file that allows physical copies to be made with the help of 3D printing is a start.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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DinoNuggets.com wrote at 3/24/2016 5:57:54 PM:

To speak to the other commenters- Yes, it clearly wasn't done with just a Kinect. That is obvious. The point of doing what they are doing, is more an expression of taking action to free cultural artifacts and make a public display of the whole event to bring awareness to their cause.

Fredini wrote at 3/7/2016 7:05:34 PM:

My thoughts: There's Something Fishy About The Other Nefertiti http://wp.me/p3jPKp-bSQ95

Keisar Betancourt wrote at 2/24/2016 11:19:17 PM:

They could have combined the scan with thousands of online images to reproduce it in far greater detail than Kinect alone, or they could have averaged many scans. There are ways.

Mike 3 wrote at 2/24/2016 2:29:28 PM:

I agree! it is impossible to get that level of detail with a Kinect scan. They must have acquired the high res files that the museum generated and faked a Kinect scan.

Fredini wrote at 2/23/2016 9:06:41 PM:

I call BS on this being a kinect scan! There is no way this detail was pulled off of a Kinect. Period. IMO, this looks like a photogrammetry scan, given the level of detail in the model. It appears to me that this may be the same data generated by Paul S. Docherty here http://www.amarna3d.com/project/3d-modelling-bust-nefertiti/ , or that they used the same technique. I have scanned a LOT of items using a variety of techniques and don't believe for a second that this is a kinect scan.

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