Clandestine scanning of the Nefertiti bust in Berlin Museum results in “The Other Nefertiti”, a open access dataset that allows anyone to 3D print the head.
Two artists are on an “artistic intervention” which aims to make cultural objects publicly available to everyone. “The Other Nefertiti”, by German-Iraqi artist Nora Al-Badri and German artist Jan Nikolai Nelles, involved covertly scanning the bust of Queen Nefertiti at the Neues Museum in Berlin in October 2015.
The pair used a concealed Microsoft Kinect to scan the object. The artists used this information to create a 3D printed polymer resin model, which they claim is the most precise replica of the bust ever made.
They also released the collected 3D dataset at Europe’s largest hacker conference, the annual Chaos Communication Congress, three months later.
This data is freely accessible in the public domain as a 100 MB STL file. Within just 24 hours, around 1,000 people had already downloaded the torrent from the original seed.
The 3D printed bust can now be found in the American University in Cairo in place of the original, 3,300-year-old work.
The Other Nefertiti: Why Did they Do It?
One of the main issues which Al-Badri and Nelles have is how the Neues Museum displays the bust. They claim it does not provide viewers with any context, meaning it creates a new history for the object.
Al-Badri said on her blog: “With the data leak as a part of this counter narrative we want to activate the artefact, to inspire a critical re-assessment of today’s conditions and to overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany.”
The artists are hoping that putting pressure on museums, not only the Neues Museum, will lead to objects being sent back to their original nations.
The Neues Museum in Berlin does not allow any access to the head of Nefertiti, including the data from their own scan. Al-Badri tells Hyperallergic:
“Luckily there are ways where we don’t even need any top down effort from institutions or museums but where the people can reclaim the museums as their public space through alternative virtual realities, fiction, or captivating the objects like we did.”
Already the artists have received requests from businesses hoping to use the data scan to create souvenirs, as well as Egyptian universities who intend to use the information for academic purposes.
Interested in creating your own Nefertiti? Check out the downloadable files here, and let us know what you think in the comments.
License: The text of "The Other Nefertiti: Bust Covertly Scanned and 3D Printed" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.