3d Printing can be used for the development of almost everything both old and new. While we are extremely excited about the possibilities it give us to makes things of the future we tend to ignore the fact that it’s a tool that can also help us preserve our past. We have seen many companies taking up the task to digitally scan and preserve historical artifacts at museums. These art pieces can then be recreated by anyone interested in understanding the glorious history attached with them. What’s exciting is that such projects are also being done by some dedicated individuals and we would talk about one such enthusiast today.
Tania Larsson, is a Canadian artist who has taken up the task to use 3d printing and scanning technique to remake the collection of tanning tools that were made centuries ago by her ancestors. She has studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe and recently completed an internship at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. While studying she learnt that Smithsonian’s National Museum, has their own program to digitalize the artifacts at the museum which inspired her to use the same techniques to preserve the past of her ancestors.
Tania Larsson, recently shifted to Yellowknife in the Canada’s Northwest Territories looking for the roots of her ancestors. Where she found that she was a Gwich’in and her ancestors have lived there for centuries as North America’s northernmost Athabaskan group. Gwich’in, which literally means "one who dwells" are considered the First Nations of Canada. Gwich'in wore clothing made of white caribou hides. Sewn with sinew, and decorated with porcupine quills, trade beads, silverberry seeds, fringes and ochre, they are distinctively styled and striking to look at. These garments are a testament to Gwich'in women's great skill and artistic expression.
After finding this out Tania, decided to reverse engineer the tanning tools use by her ancestors. Modern tools like Laser scanner and photogrammetry techniques were used to recreate the 3d models of the tanning tools. These were then 3D printed out of sandstone as a reference model to make tools using fish, animal bones and antlers.
Talking about the project Miss Larson said, “My mom didn’t have tanning tools, so I don’t have tanning tools. So I thought, I might as well go find the oldest tools I could find and replicate them. I knew there were some tools in the [Smithsonian] collection and I really wanted to see them, maybe for a sense of authenticity, and to just be able to have that connection with my ancestors through these tools that are in the museum.”
The biggest thing about Native Americans and First Nations is that we always adapted to the technologies we came across, so it’s a totally normal step to use 3D scanning and 3D printing, because this is a new tool that is in front of us. This is a great way to actually take the reference of these tools, 3D print them and then be able to recreate our old tools through new technologies … It’s very exciting because we’re talking about hundreds of years old techniques and traditions and this brand new technology that we can use to recreate it and continue our culture, our traditions.”
We firmly believe that projects likes these are extremely important and a collective effort by individuals, corporate and governments is required to save the historical monuments and artifacts all across the globe. Take an example of systematic destruction of heritage sites in Syria and Iraq by ISIS. Restoration and digitization of these hundreds of sites is not possible without the joint efforts of everyone. Kudos to the efforts of Tania Larsson, as it shows us that anything can be achieved with a little passion and will to do something.