As those who frequent this blog are well aware, I am a huge geek, and as a huge geek, I can think of very few things more awesome than Cosmo Wenman's latest project: making 3D models of ancient Hellenic and Roman sculptures and releasing those models into the public domain so anyone with access to a 3D printer can print them. No copyright, no charge. Why? To preserve the classics, and to enrich the lives of our children.

"Recent advances in 3D scanning and 3D printing technologies are opening up new opportunities for the average person to possess and enjoy beautiful sculptural artwork of their own. The children growing up today and tomorrow with 3D printers in their homes and classrooms are on the verge of becoming the very first generation to have an aesthetic sensibility informed by direct, hands-on access to the world's sculptural masterworks. Their cultural landscape and visual vocabulary will be richer, more complex, and more varied than ours. Sculpture and artifacts will be able to speak to them in ways that have never before been possible."

Wenman's ambitious project actually started well over a year ago. He has been taking photographs of statues and other sculptures for well over a year, and has released those into the commons as well. Amongst his already available print forms: a bust of Alexander the Great, a portrait of Perikles, and the head of a horse of Selene. He has been invited to the British Museum, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Tate Britain, the Getty Villa, the Louvre, and the Norton Simon museum to photograph some of their extensive collection, and has now been invited to The Skulpturhalle Basel museum in Switzerland, which has an incredible collection of more than 2,000 high quality 19th and 20th century plaster casts of important ancient Hellenic and Roman sculptures. The Skulpturhalle has given Wenman permission to 3D scan sculptures of his choosing, and to share the 3D designs without any restrictions.

3D printing is a relatively new technique where a 3D image is printed pretty much like a 2D image. You can see an example of the process here. Wenman uses an eight year old camera, a range of open-source (free) computer programs, a lot of time, and an even greater amount of patience to make his models. Wenman on his process:
"Once I have a subject selected, I walk around it and find a zoom setting that will keep the entire object in frame from all sides, at all angles, for the entire shoot. I take photos along a continuous path from one position to the next, progressing around the subject several times, holding the camera at medium, high, then low angles. I usually take at least 200 to 250 photos per subject.
Afterwards, I upload [the] photos into the 123D Catch application [to combine the photographs]. After Catch, I’ll export the resulting mesh and bring it into MeshMixer, which is another free Autodesk application. It has some great tools for inspecting and patching holes and tiny errors in the model mesh that would otherwise create problems down the road.
From there I bring the repaired file into Blender, which is what I use to edit the model by sculpting as needed for added detail, or deleting parts I don’t want. Blender is also what I use to scale the model, cut it into pieces sized for my printer’s build volume, and export the printable pieces. Then I use ReplicatorG to orient the pieces. I make the print settings in ReplicatorG too; I usually print stuff completely hollow, four walls thick and around .18mm layer thickness, but sometimes much thicker for larger prints. Then I generate the G-code, then the .s3g files, and then, finally, copy those onto an SD card and put it in the printer and start printing. Then, lunch!"
I think what Wenman is doing is not only revolutionary, it is necessary. We are moving into an age where preservation is not only a must, but a responsibility. Think about it: if  specific work can be preserved, as is, without ever running the risk of loosing access to it throughout time, don't we have a responsibility to do so? If the possibility is there, can we ethically ignore this option and risk loosing the object forever in the event of a natural or man-made disaster? I can't, and that is why I have contributed to the Kickstarter campaign. Wenman has made a wide range of perks available, and his very realistic and modest goal of 35,000,- dollars for traveling expenses, materials, and equipment expenses is a goal that should be easily achievable, even if there are only 11 days left. If you can't contribute financially, then like his Facebook page, friend him on Twitter, and share the link to the Kickstarter project. Help spread the word. Even if you don't have access to a 3D printer to print the sculptures, preservation of the classics is a worthy goal.