Tag Archives: 3D Scanning


In today’s world,  the  ubiquitous destruction  and looting of cultural heritage sites are the consequences of human conflict and poverty . The digital reconstruction of ancient structures and artefacts plays a crucial role in the conservation,  preservation and recording of our past .

In the article Should museums be recreating the past by  Mark Sinclair, he gives a number of positive examples about the recording of cultural heritage objects.  The part I found really interesting is the section on the huge casts of Trajan’s column which are held in the V&A Museum.  These  casts were taken in the 1860s and are understood to be in a better state of preservation than the original in Rome, due to pollution and weather erosion.  It is worthy to note that the details of the casts have survived better than on the original, hence being a valuable historical record in itself (Sinclair 4). The  empirical proof that casting was successful in the recreation of the iconographic narrative on Trajan’s column only solidifies the pro-argument.

The replication of  artefacts through  3D scanning and printing is a contentious area.

Source: www.theguardian.com
Source: www.theguardian.com

With the vast growth of digital technology, and the ambiguity of copyright/ownership laws, it is getting progressively harder to stop such activities being committed.  There are also those who disparage  computer technology as a whole, with the negative connotation such as “technological fetishism” being used to throw scorn on  Western capitalistic  consumerism (Huggett 82).  On reflection, one can construe a sense of logic from Huggett’s article in terms of cost and the accessibility of this technology and its software, but it is hard to deny that digital technology has brought mankind to another level in all fields and disciplines.

When thinking about the recreation of the past through digitisation, it is difficult to comprehend this experience due to the immateriality of the digital world.  This world that is devoid of any substance we can touch or  smell is inconceivably  weird (Jeffrey 145).  For some people, this digital experience is disengaging  and  devoid of any physical sensation, moreover, it does not hold the same auratic feeling, that authentic  museum artefacts emanate.  Authentic artefacts, such as  bronze coins  go through an aging process, where they develop a patina.  In time, this patina  becomes tarnished and coloured by oxidisation,  due to the chemical composition in the soil. This authenticity is hard to replicate and does not seem to trigger the same response whilst experiencing a digital version of the same artefact.   Jeffrey argues that this aura can indeed migrate from the original artefacts to their digital or physical reproductions by “becoming part of the ongoing biography of the original” and also depending on “how good or bad the reproduction is” (Jeffrey 148).   In my view, I do not think that one can replicate the aura surrounding an ancient monument or artefact.  All ancient objects have a biography, one could choose the Parthenon Marbles as an example.  These sculptures have such an important historical pedigree.  They were sculpted during the Periclean building program in the 5th century B.C.E and were housed inside the famous Parthenon.  In my opinion, I think it would be impossible to experience the same level of euphoria with a digitised scan of the Parthenon or of any ancient artefact.

I do believe that museums should recreate the past through digitisation.  One cannot argue that digitisation is progressive and beneficial to humanities in relation to conservation and preservation.  In my opinion, visitors to a museum cannot have an auratic experience through conceptualisation alone.  Digitisation can be used in conjunction with the authentic artefacts to create an enhanced experience.


Jeffrey, Stuart.  “Challenging Heritage Visualisation: Beauty, Aura and Democratisation”. Open Archaeology , 2015, pp. 144-152, https://www.degruyter.com/downloadpdf/j/opar.2014.1.issue-1/opar-2015-0008/opar-2015-0008.xml.  Accessed on 24 October 2016.

Huggett, J. “Archaeology and the new technological fetishism”. Archeologia and Calcolatori, 2004, 15, pp. 81-92,  http://soi.cnr.it/archcalc/indice/PDF15/05_Hugget.  Accessed on 23 October 2016.

Sinclair, Mark. “Should museums be recreating the past?”.  Creative Reviewhttps://www.creativereview.co.uk/should-museums-be-recreating-the-past/. Accessed on 25 October 2016.


In his article 3D Scanning: A World without Copyright, Michael Weinberg focuses on the fast developing technology of 3D scanning and whether or not 3D scans should be protected by copyright.  The answer to this question is that it depends on whether or not the particular scan meets the criteria of originality and creativity (Weinberg 2).  The author, correctly in my opinion, takes the stand that scans should generally not be protected under copyright laws insofar as they are realistic and accurate digital representation of a physical object (representational scans) (Weinberg 7).  In contrast, expressive scans are the creation of the scanner who makes an expressive statement through intentionally imperfect scans of the physical object (Weinberg 10).  An example of expressive scanning is the work of Sophie Kahn whose method of artistic expression, in her own words, combines modern digital technology like 3D scanning and 3D printing with the ancient technique of bronze casting.[1]  In the context of this example it is understandable that Weinberg considers that expressive scans should be protected under copyright laws as they do pass the test of originality and creativity.

Période de Clownisme, F. Sophie Kahn (3D print from a 3D scan) Source: www.sophiekahn.net

The two categories of scans are not strictly isolated.  Representational scans can be transformed into expressive scans.  However, it seems less likely that an expressive scan is capable of being converted into a representational one.  The author also considers other related issues surrounding scanning and copyright, most notable of which is that the process of scanning a copyrighted object might constitute infringement on the owner’s copyright even though the scan itself is not protected by a new copyright.  He also makes the point that even though scans might not be protected by copyright, the creation and use of scans and 3D scans can be controlled by their creator under the provisions of contract law.

In his article Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artifacts and Copyright, Charles Cronin also considers the problems of copyright in the digital technology age but he focuses his attention mainly on the problem of the inappropriate assertion of intellectual property claims from owners of public domain cultural artefacts.  The author points out that it is a commonplace practice for museums and other institutions to claim copyright over original artefacts, as well as over two- and three-dimensional copies and reproductions of them.  The author correctly asserts that this practice is fraudulent and has no basis in the existing copyright legislation.  In the absence of copyright protection, owners of public domain artefacts resort to other legal mechanisms like contracts and license in the assertion of their ownership over the originals by authorising the production of any replicas and copies of them (Cronin 723).  In their doing so, the owners ‘appropriate the legal rights of users’ (Cronin 728).  Furthermore, the problem is exacerbated by the absence of rights of users in public domain works in the existing copyright legislation (Cronin 727).  However, the non-invasive digital technologies like 3D scanning and printing make it harder for the owners to assert their authority in circumstances where three-dimensional replicas can be easily achieved with minimal (if any) contact with the original object.

The fast-paced development of 3D scanning and 3D printing poses numerous issues of concern in relation to the existing ambiguous copyright legislation.  Both Weinberg and Cronin point out the necessity of bringing intellectual property law up to speed with quickly developing 3D technology.


Weinberg, Michael.  “3D Scanning: A World without Copyright”. Shapeways, May 2016, pp. 1-16,     http://www.shapeways.com/wordpress/wpcontent/uploads/2016/05/white-paper-3d-scanning-world-without-copyright.pdf.  Accessed on 14 October 2016.

Cronin, Charles.  “Possession is 99% of the Law: 3D Printing, Public Domain Cultural Artifacts and Copyright”.  Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, Vol. 17, Issue 2, 2016, pp. 709-736, http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/mjlst/vol17/iss2/3.  Accessed on 16 October 2016.

[1] Please see the Artist’s Statement available from  http://www.sophiekahn.net/about