Researcher blog by PhD Candidate Amelia Knowlson: 3D printing & the Grice Collection – a curatorial residency

About the author

Amelia Knowlson is a doctoral student in the Art & Design Research Centre (ADRC) and is supported by the Heritage Consortium. Amelia’s work examines the use of 3D printing as a curatorial tool and can be seen in Stories from the East: The Grice Ivories an exhibition by Museums Sheffield which runs until 9 July 2017.

In this post, Amelia reveals some of her findings from ‘behind the scenes’ at Stories from the East: The Grice Ivories at Museums Sheffield.


As part of my PhD research exploring the curatorial perception of 3D scanning and printing in museums. I have been working with curators at Museums Sheffield to co-curate and develop 3D content for the new ivory exhibition ‘Stories from the East: The Grice Ivories’. Working in collaboration with Clare Starkie, Curator of Decorative Art, a range of ivories were 3D scanned and printed from the 154 strong Grice Collection at Museums Sheffield. This unique collection of Chinese ivory is one of the most significant in the UK. Collected by Dr John Grice and given to the city by JG Graves, Grice chose his objects based purely on his aesthetic taste. The result is an eclectic collection of ivories depicting historical and mythological figures, plaques, vase, brush pots and armrests to name but a few.


KNOWLSON 2017-03 news Grice IvoriesDuring this 2-month residency I aimed to go beyond the application of 3D printing to create handling objects as seen in other museums, and use the technology as a curatorial tool for articulation and seeing objects afresh. Mimicking Grice’s collection method of selection, curators at Museums Sheffield and I co-selected a range of ivories from the collection and 3D scanned them. The scans revealed previously unnoticed carved details sparking cross-curatorial conversations. These conversations and details were the inspiration behind 3D printing parts of the objects, to further exhibition narrative of storying telling.
3D scanning and printing are directly integrated into the narrative of the new ivory exhibition ‘Stories from the East – The Grice Ivories’ revealing not only an additional interpretational narrative for the museum but tensions between authenticity and authority. 3D printed objects are placed in cases alongside their museum counterparts creating a dialogue between the original and the replica. Here the copy is treated as a museum object. This experimental methodology and research, not only reveals the previously unseen but brings to light the ever-changing curatorial process, challenging the social and political construction of what a ‘museum object’ is.
‘Behind the scenes’ I have been working with curators to understand their perception of 3D technology. Curators, across a range of different curatorial fields have been 3D printing through a range of different curatorial interventions designed to explore how and why 3D printing could be used within the museum.
The outcome of this project is a collection of in case and touchable 3D printed copies integrated into the design and narrative of ‘Stories from the East – The Grice Collection’. The exhibition opens on the 11th of March and will run for 4 months. During this time, further research with both audiences and curators at Museums Sheffield will be explored.



Please note: Views expressed are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of SHU, C3RI or the C3RI Impact Blog.



  • Dear Amelia,
    I am an Italian archaeologist and I work in a national archaeological museum in Italy (Museo Archeologico Nazionale a Villa Frigerj, Chieti). I found the topic of your research very interesting and I would like to ask you few questions:
    – how much does it cost to print a small object, for example in plastic? (for example a cube, 5 cm);
    – is there any scientific publication about 3d printings? Did you already publish anything I can refer to in a scientific article?
    Thank you and good luck with your project!

  • Hello Marina
    Thank you for getting in touch. I will get Amelia to respond as soon as possible.
    best wishes