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New Commission: International Slavery Museum

Photo of the 3D prints and postcards that make up the collection
The Transatlantic Slavery and Its Contemporary Significance Collection

We’ve been busy working on many exciting commissions recently and plan to share a few more detailed insights into these over the coming weeks.

One such commission is with the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, a collection we produced along with staff at the museum that explores transatlantic slavery, and its contemporary significance. 

The collection consists of two 3D models and seven postcards and encompasses a range of artefacts from the museum’s collection.  These include objects that would have been touched by African slaves, street signs connecting Liverpool to the slave trade, and contemporary art pieces.

Photo of lighting rig and sculpture being scanned
Our rig for doing 3D photogrammetric capture

After settling on an object list, Charlie travelled up to the museum to 3D scan the two objects that were to be 3D printed. These were the Olaudah Equiano sculpture – a brilliant sculpture of writer, abolitionist and a former enslaved African, Olaudah Equiano by sculptor Christy Symington, and a Bamana mask – a type of mask used in Bamana culture used in traditional initiation societies in order to pass into adulthood. We printed them out in some brilliant bright yellow PLA, and were glad that so much detail of the original, including the shape of Africa on Olaudah’s back, broken shackles, and an enslaved female figure from the Brookes slave ship diagram were all visible on the print!

A photograph of the 3D printed bust of Equiano

The audio in the collection incorporates narration from staff members including education demonstrators, curators, volunteers, and youth ambassadors. It’s great to hear such a variety of expert voices talk about the objects in such depth. Here’s a sample of one object in the collection, a ‘Talking Drum’, described by Yaz, one of the museum’s education demonstrators:

Drum, 20th Century, Akan, Ghana
‘The Talking Drum’

An important distinction the collection highlights is the range of material held at the museum. This includes not only original objects but contemporary artworks too such as the Olaudah Equiano sculpture and The Cockle Pickers’ Tea Service.

‘Made in 2007 to commemorate 200 years since Britain enacted a law to outlaw the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The artwork references the original African victims, whilst also remembering twenty-one Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay Lancashire in 2004. These people were contemporary slaves. A reminder that the slave trade is still alive in the twenty first century.’

Paul Scott’s ‘Cumbrian Blue(s), The Cockle Pickers’ Tea Service’ (2007)

We’re chuffed with how the set neatly encapsulate the museum’s broad collection, and that the box will be used to help increase awareness and understanding of the important stories it has to tell.

We can’t wait to hear how they get on with the box in the coming months!

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3D design prototype

This office produces lots of things

Today, we’re working on two prototype boxes: Greek Gods & Goddesses, and Haunted Objects. The research-y stage of making boxes is one of my favourites, because you get to range far and wide around a single object, in this case, we’re looking at a lei niho palaoa from Hawaii, which we found in the collection of The Met in New York.

Then I’m all of a sudden learning about Kamehameha, a great chief in Hawaii, reading Captain Cook’s journals, and looking at photographs of a female chief named Mele Kaupoko wearing her lei niho palaoa.

I became interested in the question, “what did the object witness” during its lifetime… who wore it? where was it kept? what did it hear? who touched it? how did it end up in The Met? These questions led me to explore some Hawaiian music, and once you pass the ukulele song we all know and delve deeper, you find prayer songs like these…

We’re also working on the idea that each box will also contain a character, to help guide you around the set of objects, so we need to make some new figures we can print to include with the box. Of course, I volunteered my body to the cause, and Charlie has set about making a 3D model of me. I am in love with the work in progress of making a 3D model, especially when you see the object of focus in its surroundings, so shot a quick video so you can see it too:

I just love the look of this sort of thing. I’m surprised there’s not more art made around it.