3D printing and exhibition merchandise

1 05 2015

Yes, it’s still on my mind … I’ve been thinking about how else this technology could be used …

I’ve previously sternly criticised a few blockbuster exhibitions for their poor attempt at merchandise. The example most prominent in my memory is the lack of special or even decent jewellery ‘merch’ at the Melbourne Museum’s ‘Afghanistan‘ exhibition a few years ago [the link in that story no longer works; use this one].

As I wrote at the time: “And the ‘jewellery’ on offer? Oh dear. Oh dear me. I’d have perhaps bought some for my nieces (they’re under 10) but not for myself.

My thought grenade on this topic: I was so charmed by the little clothing ornaments, that if there were a little gold reproduction pendant (while I’d have loved a high carat version to replicate the colouring of the original, perhaps 9ct would have been the most economically viable option) on a delicate little chain (or even not on a chain – I have some at home or could easily acquire one) I’d have bought it. Seriously.

On the day I had spent more than $30 for the entry ticket and audio tour, there was parking to be paid too – so why wouldn’t the museum (quite rightly) predict I may have some disposable income to spend on a genuinely beautiful item? The merchandising doesn’t all have to be … erm … inexpensive; there is room for quality.

And who am I to say? Just a visitor. A visitor who wanted to take something home with me as a souvenir of my visit. But didn’t.

exhibition media; click on image for original source; Photographs courtesy Musée Guimet, Thierry Ollivier

exhibition media; click on image for original source; photograph Musée Guimet, Thierry Ollivier

Now … what if the museums/galleries holding huge exhibitions with massive merchandise budgets considered this possibility … choose two or three special small items from the show (or even elements of items), have them 3D scanned (with high resolution), have them 3D-printed and then cast, in lower-cost metals for the affordable end and perhaps a very small number in gold for visitors with genuine interest and cash to spend.

I’d seriously consider buying a little item that was an accurate replica of a superb ancient artefact if it was available. Of course, I’m thinking of this with respect to exhibitions that contain jewellery items … though it may have broader applications.

So there’s my gauntlet Melbourne Museum and NGV … or NGA, how about you lead the field on this? Though given the risk of anything new, I expect we’ll see this of The Met or V&A first.

I’d love to see if/when this happens …



3 responses

1 05 2015

Interested to see how this develops… Frustrating that so many amazing shows are let down badly by the merch on offer.

1 05 2015

Hi Vetti!!
You’re absolutely right … though of course I’d say that 😉
Why galleries, and especially Melbourne Museum, insist on dwelling at the bottom end of quality merch is beyond me.
Fingers crossed something is done soon… though I very much doubt it; my sense is that they’ll be dragged into the 21st century but not for many many years.

1 05 2015

Damn right…sometimes there are interesting books, but jewellery and homewares are often not worth the browsing time…

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