MV Blog


3D printing at SmartBar

by Ely Wallis
Publish date
16 May 2013
Comments (0)

The theme of the most recent SmartBar at Melbourne Museum was 'retrofuturism'. A perfect theme to base a demonstration of technology that's definitely more future than retro – 3D printing.

During the evening we had two printers set up: the Museum's recently-purchased MakerBot Replicator2 and a printer brought along by our colleagues Bernard Meade and Ben Kreunen (from The University of Melbourne). Bernard and Ben also brought along a 3D scanner, and spent the evening scanning specimens from our Marine Invertebrates collection.

A crowd of people view 3D printers 3D printers and scanner demonstration with an enthusiastic and interested crowd at SmartBar, Melbourne Museum, April 2013.
Image: Ben Kreunen
Source: The University of Melbourne

We had an incredibly positive response with people very interested to see the new technology demonstrated. One reaction was surprise that the Museum is experimenting in this emerging field. “What are you going to use it for?” was a common question. The answer ranges from science (especially palaeontological) research, to rapid prototyping of exhibition components, to modelling. And the list will continue to grow. Other museums are also experimenting, and 3D printing maker spaces have been popping up at museum technology conferences for a couple of years now.

We also used the deadline of SmartBar to test out possible workflows, as we have also recently purchased a 3D scanner. With the scanner located in our Media Production department, our best expertise at handling 3D files located in our Design team, and the printer located in our Digital and Emerging Technology department, we wanted to see how well a new cross-department workflow might go.

3D printer in operation The MakerBot Replicator2 in action, printing an ammonite.
Image: Ely Wallis
Source: Museum Victoria

Our Sciences department supplied some collection specimens to scan, which we did more and less successfully. The best was an ammonite, and our scan of a trilobite was okay, though we want to try printing it end on to get better relief detail.

Less successful was a biscuit star which looked to have enough surface detail to scan well, but which ended up looking like a lump of dough. The lessons learned were that we should upgrade our scanning software, and that we need a lot more practice in how to fill in ends and merge multiple scans to get a complex 3D shape with no holes.

The least successful, but amusing, experiment was an attempt to scan quartz crystals. Lovely shapes but the lasers passed straight through or bounced off the clear crystals, providing a very pretty laser light show but no scan. Next time we’ll try powdering them to get a better matt surface.

White ammonite specimen next to black plastic one Real ammonite specimen from Museum Victoria’s palaeontology collection, next to the 3D printed model.
Image: Ben Healley
Source: Museum Victoria

All in all, it was a fun night, and a successful first attempt at our own scanning and printing. Congratulations to all who attended SmartBar and got to take home their own 3D printed ammonite. In case you’re interested, the original is a fossil Pleuroceras sp, which was found in Bavaria in Germany.

We have now uploaded the ammonite scan to Museum Victoria’s collection (of one!) in Thingiverse, a website for sharing 3D printable files and where you’ll find other museums also uploading scans. We’ll continue to add specimens and models there over time.

Happy printing!

(see also Amstrad on display at SmartBar)

Google Art Project

by Ely Wallis
Publish date
4 April 2012
Comments (2)

Ely is responsible for publishing information about the museum’s collections online – on our own website and on websites run by others. Originally trained as a zoologist, she dropped into the relatively new field of museum informatics several years ago and has never looked back.

We are very excited to announce our participation in the Google Art Project.

At Museum Victoria we aim to give as many people as possible access to our rich and wonderful collections. The internet provides ways to do that far beyond the walls of our public exhibition venues. We provide access to over 72,000 items from our History and Technology Collections through our own Collections Online site. But we also contribute to other projects, which might attract new visitors to our collections; people who come with different interests – or even just different search terms.

Google Art Project Museum Victoria's collection on Google Art Project.
Source: Google / Museum Victoria

Originally launched in February 2011, the Art Project has now expanded its reach and scope to include 151 institutions across 40 different countries. Museum Victoria has contributed 185 high resolution images into the site, along with detailed descriptive information about each work and biographies of the artists where they are known. The items range from Aboriginal bark paintings, beautiful pencil illustrations, historic photographs depicting early Victorian history, to scientific illustrations and works on display at Melbourne Museum.

The project has been interesting and challenging for museum staff as we have had to think about objects in the collection through the lens of 'art'. Our collections are made for their scientific, cultural or personal significance, so it has been fascinating to look again at the items we hold and to tell their story through art.

To go along with the Art Project website, the Museum has also made thirteen videos about the stories of the objects we've included. These videos are all available in a special playlist at Museum Victoria's YouTube channel. One of the videos, about photographer and naturalist A J Campbell can be seen below, as a taster to explore the others.


We are very excited to join just a handful of other galleries and museums in Australia, including our friends at the NGV, but many others around the world, to showcase extraordinary and beautiful works of art. We hope you will enjoy exploring some our rich treasures in this quite new light.


Museum Victoria's collection on Google Art Project

Google Art Project playlist on YouTube

Historypin channel

by Ely Wallis
Publish date
29 March 2012
Comments (1)
Ely is responsible for publishing information about the museum’s collections online – on our own website and on websites run by others. Originally trained as a zoologist, she dropped into the relatively new field of museum informatics several years ago and has never looked back.

We're excited to announce the launch of Museum Victoria's channel on Historypin, joining other museums, historical societies, libraries, galleries, archives and individuals all sharing historic photographs online.

Screenshot of Museum Victoria's Historypin channel. Screenshot of Museum Victoria's Historypin channel.
Source: Museum Victoria / Historypin

Participants 'pin' their images to a place on a map and a point in time, and can record their stories about the photos. In doing so, the community creates together a rich resource for exploring history through space and time. To learn more about Historypin, watch this video, A Short Introduction to Historypin.


We have initially put up 500 images from the Biggest Family Album in Australia collection. There are fascinating images, from hailstones the size of tennis balls that fell in Charlton in 1914, to boys on tricycles in Corobimilla at Christmas in 1925. And all the photographs we've put on Historypin have a link back to our Collections Online site, so visitors can find out more about them.

In another part of the Historypin website, we have also included four images of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Melbourne in 1954. Pinning the Queen's History celebrates Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 with photographs taken throughout her long reign. Queen Elizabeth attended a State Reception at the Exhibition Buildings during her extensive 1954 tour of Commonwealth countries. You can follow her trip through the photograph archive, and even track the hats and outfits she wore right around the world!

More images will go up as we continue to generate latitudes and longitudes for the places photographed. We are excited to be a part of this rich new resource.

About this blog

Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.