Student Work

Digital sculpture restoration


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The process of sculpture restoration, the repairing of environmental damage in a work of art, has long been a careful and meticulous art. Capturing the aesthetics and techniques used by an artist is challenging in and of itself, but translating them to fill the voids left by missing pieces is a skill possessed only by a handful of individuals. To aid conservators in the restoration process and lower the skill floor required to carry out restoration work, we collaborated with the Worcester Art Museum to develop a modern set of techniques for sculpture restoration. Our case study for the project was Shipwrecked Mother and Child, an 1851 sculpture by New England sculptor Edward Augustus Brackett. After 80 years in the WAM’s storage, the sculpture was missing five pieces, which we set out to recreate with our workflow. Our process begins by using 3D scanners to digitize the work of art. The scans are then imported into a 3D modeling program to manually recreate the missing portions of the statue based on the scan data. Finally, these parts are 3D printed and fitted onto the statue to replace what was once lost. Due to time constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not create a finished version of each of the five components. However, each component saw at least three printed iterations that integrated nearly seamlessly with the statue, proving that our workflow could recreate missing components in an artist’s style and produce components that cleanly attach to the break sites on the statue. Throughout the project, we experimented with more sophisticated printing technologies such as PolyJet and ceramic SLA and used augmented reality for rapid iteration without the need to 3D print at every stage. While the project did not see a definitive conclusion, it has provided a solid foundation for future work into digital sculpture restoration. This future work could involve more sophisticated printing methods, more advanced augmented reality, and artificial intelligence for the automated generation of parts.

  • This report represents the work of one or more WPI undergraduate students submitted to the faculty as evidence of completion of a degree requirement. WPI routinely publishes these reports on its website without editorial or peer review.
  • 26166
  • E-project-071921-160541
  • 2021
Date created
  • 2021-07-19
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