Monday, 4 November 2013

3D Fossils at Science Uncovered at The Natural History Museum

On the last Friday in September, two members of the 3D fossils team boarded a train from Nottingham station to attend the Science Uncovered event as part of European Researchers Night 2013.

We were to be demonstrating in the imaging zone, alongside pieces of exotic equipment such as a table-top electron microscope. After solving a few minor problems during setting up (using the time-honoured method of “gaffer tape and ingenuity”....) we had the 3d printer running and making 3d fossils.

Our first “customers” were adults who had brought  their children to the museum (or was it the children who had brought their parents?!). Many had been fossil hunting and were excited to learn of the existence of our database, where they could download models to compare with their own finds, to help in identifying them.

3D fossils in the spotlight - demonstrating to an onlooker how a print is made up

It was also good to speak to a number of school teachers who had recently bought a 3d printer and were looking for things to fabricate with it. We were able to share our experiences of acquiring models using the laser scanner, or designing them in 3D CAD, and finally using the printer to output that work.

Our anaglyphs and 3d prints proved a big hit with young and old alike, and we distributed plenty of fossil cards and leaflets throughout the evening. One of the trickiest parts of the evening was working in a darkened room, with a black floor, black walls and a black tablecloth – thank goodness that we were printing the models in white plastic!

Viewing anaglyphs on the iPad screen made it easy for everyone to have a go

All in all, it was great to see so many people attending the evening and provided us with a brilliant opportunity to explain our work to people from a very wide range of backgrounds, and how modern technologies are invaluable in helping us achieve this. 

A late Victorian interpretation of "3D Fossils"!
Simon Harris

Conservator/JISC Project Photographer

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