The Digital Cast Courts

Scan the World at The Victoria and Albert Museum

Trajan's Column by Copyright 2010, Ben Littauer & Kathy KerbyScan The World

On the 1st December 2018, The Victoria and Albert Museum’s prestigious Cast Courts were reopened to the public. A new central corridor, ‘The Interpretation Gallery’, explores the art of copying and its techniques past, present and future, with two 3D printed objects from Scan the World’s own collection of copies placed on permanent display.

There are very few places in the world that can compare to The Cast Courts. Home to facsimiles of Trajan’s Column and Michelangelo’s David it is a testament to the triumph of Victorian manufacture and democratised knowledge, its origins stemming from a partnership between ruling families across Europe. Coined by the museum’s founding director Henry Cole, the partnership’s resulting convention drawn up in 1867 promoted the sharing of reproductions of artworks around the world to further encourage the dissemination of accessibility and research. 

V&A Exterior by ©Victoria and Albert Museum, LondonScan The World

Scan the World’s Digital Cast Courts can be interpreted as the 21st Century’s response to the galleries. The project echoes Henry Cole’s drive for accessibility as well as the convention’s core ideologies of open knowledge, bringing together a global community of enthusiasts, art lovers and academics alike. The democratised, crowd-sourced archive is built to be contributed to and accessed by anyone around the world, all in the wider context of a meaningful contribution to education, accessibility and increased cultural identity in an ever-growing digital landscape.    

Convention by CC-BY-NC - Victoria and Albert MuseumScan The World

“The knowledge of (…) monuments is necessary to the progress of art, and the reproductions of them would be of a high value to all museums for public instruction.”

— Convention for promoting universally reproductions of works of art for the benefit of museums of all countries, 1867.  

Loading 3D model
, Jonathan Beck, From the collection of: Scan The World
Show lessRead more

Unofficial scanathon at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London by Jonathan BeckScan The World

Choosing two objects from Scan the World’s collection of over 16,000 artefacts was not easy, so it was decided that we would display facsimiles of sculptures which are also in The V&A as well as to highlight two common types of digitisation.  

Bust of a Young Woman by Jonathan Beck and Scan the WorldScan The World

Some of the first objects added to Scan the World originate from 3D data captured without the permission of The V&A. Using smartphones over 150 sculptures were digitised, implementing a process called Photogrammetry. Andrea dell’Aquila’s Bust of a Young Woman (A.23–2018) was the first object we digitised using this method created in one of the project's early ‘Scanathons’.  

Bust of a Bearded Old Man, from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London by Jonathan Beck, Scan the World, and Augustin PajouScan The World

The second object, a copy of Augustin Pajou’s Head of a Bearded Old Man (A.22–2018), was digitised using a structured light scanner after Scan the World was invited by the museum to undertake some scanning of the collection in the context of educational workshops.

Henrietta Pelham by Jonathan BeckScan The World

The two objects are freely available to download from Scan the World, which serves as an important step in encouraging cultural institutions to openly share their digitised collections, as well as 3D models of cultural artefacts, online. There is still a long way to go for national museums to officially open their collections online, so in the meantime Scan the World has been doing it for them.  

David, Michelangelo by Scan the World and Jonathan BeckScan The World

The inclusion of 3D printed facsimiles in the Cast Courts highlight the importance and relevance digital technologies have in the age of reproduction, standing as a modern alternative to traditional techniques of casting.

In the case of Scan the World, the democratised ability to allow anyone to make a copy of an artefact without the need of a foundry or traditional skills allows for anyone to connect with art. We’re mature enough to know that digital technologies won’t replace the original techniques, but what can it mean for the future of appreciating and engaging with culture when it’s freely available to copy and consume?    

Credits: Story

The new Interpretation Gallery can be found between rooms 46a and 46b. The two busts exhibited (A.22-2018 - A.23-2018) are available to download, alongside over 200+ other objects in The Victoria and Albert Museum’s 3D printable collection, on MyMiniFactory.  

Models used, download for free below:

David, Michelangelo
Bust of a Young Woman
Bust of a Bearded Old Man
Bust of Henrietta Pelham

Visit The Victoria and Albert Museum on MyMiniFactory  

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Preserving Our Past
Learn how people around the world are working to preserve our shared history
View theme
Google apps