Representing Re-Formation: 3D Prints of Howard Tombs

Thetford Banner #1 smallThe Digital Building Heritage Group were in Norfolk last week to look at two 3D printed models produced as part of a £664,551, AHRC Funded, UK government Science and Heritage Programme project called Representing Re-Formation. This 3 year project which is a collaboration between the University of Leicester, The University of Oxford, Yale University, Yale Center for British Art, English Heritage and the British Museum examined the medieval tombs of the Howard Dukes of Norfolk. Two of these tombs were originally at Thetford Priory, Norfolk, but were moved to the east end of Framlingham parish church after the priory’s dissolution by Henry VIII. In doing so these tombs were remodeled, parts were lost and others added so that they now differ substantially from their original appearance. The purpose of the project has been to examine the remains of these tombs and others elsewhere to try to recreate digital models of how they would have originally looked and gain new insights into their history and the people associated with them. The project employed the well known 3D scanning technology company Europac3D to carry out the 3D laser scanning of three of these 16th Century tombs in Framlingham. The tombs included that of Thomas Howard the 3rd Duke of Norfolk and that of Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset who was the illegitimate child of Henry the VIII. The technology used was an NDI ScanTRAK 3D laser scanning system. All three tombs were scanned at 0.1mm resolution in less than 5 days and then Andrew Goldstraw an applications engineer at Europac3D undertook the complex task of resolving the scan data into complete 3D digital models of the tombs. From these 3D digital models Europac3D also produced the two 3D prints which are on show using one of their 3D Systems powder machines. These are resin bonded gypsum powder 3D prints similar to those produced by the DBHG here at De Montfort University but in this case finished with the industry standard surface treatment of isocryinate (superglue) to harden them. We prefer to use our own proprietary chemical treatment to give a lustrous bright white, hard finish to the gypsum powder. The level of detail in the figurative decoration of these models is good and both models were made in two parts, the horizontal cut lines only being visible on close inspection.

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The rest of the exhibition is an interesting use of small stone sculptures and figurative decoration from the tombs mounted against 1:1 background 2D images of the digital reconstructions to show how the artifacts would have looked when in their original positions. There are some useful explanatory diagrams showing how the tomb fragments would have fitted in with the overall designs but it’s the actual tomb fragments themselves which steal the show, they have a beauty and charm all of their own. This small, one room exhibition is on until 29 March 2014 at the Ancient House Museum on White Hart Street in Thetford, a Grade I listed Tudor merchant’s house which has recently benefitted from a £1.6 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Objective 2 programme, Norfolk County Council and others to renovate and conserve this fine building. Entry is free and it’s a small regional museum well worth visiting with something for everyone – not just heritage 3D printing.

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About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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