Visiting Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion? You must join the virtual exhibition queue when you arrive. If capacity has been reached for the day, the queue will close early.

Learn more

The High-Tech Met

Jennette Mullaney
September 19, 2012

Left: Standing Female Deity, probably Durga, pre-Angkor period, ca. last quarter of the 7th century–early 8th century. Cambodia. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Rogers Fund and Anonymous Gift, in honor of Martin Lerner, 2000 (2000.531). Right: Durga puppet by Anney Fresh and Keith Ozar.

«Twenty-five digital artists and programmers descended upon the Metropolitan Museum's Art Studio on June 1 and 2 for our first 3D scanning and printing Hackathon. The invited guests, along with staff from MakerBot Industries, spent two action-packed days photographing Museum objects and using specialized printers to convert their images into 3D models.»

Participants Anney Fresh and Keith Ozar used the available 3D modeling software to design a puppet inspired by a female deity statue in the Met's collection. Fresh, a puppeteer, and Ozar, an events manager for MakerBot, saw the statue in the galleries and decided to create a model of the work with its arms restored. After photographing the statue, they printed their creation using the MakerBot Replicator, a specialized printer that uses plastic and other materials to create 3D objects. Though the statue originally had four arms, its new doppelgänger boasts six moveable arms and a startling color scheme.

"The purpose of the Hackathon was to see what we could learn when a group of artists already familiar with 3D digital tools used our collections as sources for creative experimentation using low-cost scanning, modeling, and printing technologies," said Jacqueline Terrassa, managing Museum educator for Gallery and Studio Programs. The event allowed the Museum to explore the potential of these technologies to engage visitors with its collections. It also allowed the Met to continue a long tradition—one dating to its founding—of using the collections to support the creative practice of artists, designers, and craftsmen.

Don Undeen, manager of the Media Lab in the Museum's Digital Media Department, was particularly impressed by the participants' camaraderie. "New York has a thriving community of artists and hackers who enjoy making things and exploring ideas in a spirit of open collaboration," he said. "By connecting with this deep well of creative energy, the Met finds new ways to look at and present our collections, and the institution as a whole."

Hackathon participants mingling near the MakerBot Replicators, specialized printers that create 3D objects using plastic and other materials

The environment at the Hackathon was electrifying. Fueled by imagination, caffeine, and sugar, the invitees worked with dizzying speed to create designs inspired by works of art in the Museum. Marsyas, a sculpture by Balthasar Permoser, resonated with many of the Hackathoners, and the bust's tortured expression graces a number of the 3D objects created at the event.

Terrassa was excited to examine "how the Met could provide a space, an occasion, a supportive environment where people could work for two intense days." Though plans for similar events that utilize 3D printing technology are still in their earliest stages, Terrassa was inspired by the artists' and programmers' creative energy. The 3D Hackathon was the first event of its kind at the Museum, but if the participants' enthusiasm and the originality of the creations are any indication, then it certainly will not be the last.

View photos of the event.

Jennette Mullaney

Jennette Mullaney was formerly the associate email marketing manager in the Digital Media Department.