Drinking about Museums: Portlandia Edition … and MakerBots!

I’m not exactly sure when or where it started, but I give credit to Ed Rodley at the Museum of Science in Boston for introducing me to the concept of the “Drinking about Museums” professional meet-up.  What could be better than meeting up with museum folk, playing around in our galleries & exhibit spaces, sharing ideas, and topping it all off with drinks.  Boston is doing it!  Sydney is doing it!  Denver is doing it!  So it was time to get “Drinking about Museums” started up here in the Northwest — Portlandia style. And since I’m still the new kid in town, this was a great way to get outside the walls of the Portland Art Museum and meet other creative museum people.  So here is my report from the inaugural “Drinking about Museums” in Portland, Oregon:

Drinking about Museums — Portlandia Edition

GroupProduceRowWhen:  January 9, 2013

Where: Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) and Produce Row

Who: Sparked by my new love for OMSI and their staff, we gathered together interested people from their education and exhibit design departments along with people from our education and digital collections departments at the Portland Art Museum.

The evening began at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) in their technology lab and maker space — an area of their museum in which they are playing with new forms of creative engagement and participatory design. David Perry, OMSI’s Director of Museum Education, and Kristin Bayans, Senior Educator, both hosted the group along with many other OMSI educators and staff. We all got to know each other through some fun (aka ’embarrassing’) activities, but mostly we played around in the learning lab space and got to chat with each other about what we do.

When you get so many creative, high-energy museum people together in one place, the ideas start flowing … and I feel that we came away from the night with tons of potential for meaningful collaboration.  For me, one of the first experiments that will likely come out of this exchange is a couple MakerBot 3D printing workshops at the Portland Art Museum, allowing education staff from both institutions to play with this technology and its potential applications for an art museum.


So this brings me to the next topic of my post … MakerBots!  I have been eyeing the MakerBot station at OMSI for months now, chatting with their staff and volunteers about how it is being used, why it is being used, and what are the potential ways it could be used in an art museum context (or even with artists). Kristin Bayans, who manages this innovative lab space at OMSI, has been such an amazing person to brainstorm with, and she was able to download some objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection to print for us yesterday.  Yes, earlier this year, the Met teamed up with MakerBot to make statues, sculptures, and other three dimensional artworks from the museum’s collection available for anyone in the world to access virtually on Thingiverse.com and physically recreate with The Replicator™– MakerBot’s third-generation 3D Printer. As Jackie Terrassa, the Met’s Manager of Gallery and Studio Programs, wrote about this Hackathon event:

“… by partnering with artists and programmers who are already using these accessible technologies as creative tools, we will advance a core component of the Museum’s mission to encourage the study and development of the arts, enhancing the Met’s role as a dynamic site for creativity, inspiration, and exploration by artists and visitors alike.”

I could not agree more, and this has made me so excited to experiment with some workshops here at the Portland Art Museum around these technologies, and ensure that the museum can be a place for open creative exploration.  And, besides, now I have my very own 3D-printed replica of the Met’s sculpture of Marsyas by 17th-century German sculptor Balthasar Permoser … what could be cooler than that!  Obviously, there will be more discussion coming up on this site around 3D printing and museums, especially the impact this type of work might have in the teaching and learning realm of the museum. But I would encourage everyone to learn more about what the Met has been doing, and check out the objects and the 123D Catch scene files you can download to make your own replicas.

OK, so that is a quick report from Portland’s first ever “Drinking About Museums.”  I look forward to opening this up to more and more museums across Portland, and exploring the way we can learn from each other as professional, as creative thinkers, and as people.  Cheers!

"Marsyas" (2013) by MakerBot, and "Marsyas" (1680-85) byBalthasar Permoser
“Marsyas” (2013) by MakerBot, and “Marsyas” (1680-85) by
Balthasar Permoser

12 thoughts on “Drinking about Museums: Portlandia Edition … and MakerBots!”

    1. Thanks to you (and vicariously Koven and Kate) for inspiring us to expand Drinking About Museums to Portland … it was about time. I’m totally in on the Google community. Cheers!!

  1. At a MIDEA meeting for texas art museum educators just at the end of 2012 we all learned how to scan objects with iPads and 123D Catch and printed some using an onsite 3D printer. Liz Neely from the Art Institute of Chicago led the workshop and showed off what they’ve been doing with 3D printing. There’s a recording of an earlier MIDEA Webinar on the topic available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K45wk78TsqY

    1. Kris — thanks! Yes, Liz and I are hoping to play around with this for a pre-conference workshop at the Portland Art Museum for MW2013 here in April. I’m really looking forward to connecting more with the museum people experimenting with this, and seeing what is possible. I already had some chats with our director, chief curator, director of collections, and a guest artist-in-residence we have visiting from New York, and the process brings up lots of interesting questions and opportunities. And I also just saw that Laurie Anderson is doing a MakerBot project at the Fabric Workshop — http://bit.ly/V0stDL — cool stuff!!

  2. That Marsyas looks great, Mike! Check out the mash-up derivative, “Leda and the Marsyas.” It’s a real challenge to print.
    In the summer, we’re going to be running a 5-day educational intensive for teens, sponsored by 3D Systems. We’re going to walk 12-15 teams through photogrammetry of art objects, hacking and mashups, and printing.
    Looks to be very exciting!

    1. Thanks, Don! I love the 3D printed replicas (mine feels so special, even though I’ve been reminded that we can print as many as we want). I hope that I get more chances to play with the MakerBot printers, especially since the staff at OMSI are really pushing things in interesting directions (working with industrial designers, design firms, etc., and considering how to bring 3D printing into the center of a maker/hack learning lab in their museum). Your summer teen intensive sounds incredible — I can’t wait to hear how that goes.

      Question to you or anyone: what other art museums are playing with 3D printing outside of the Met and the Art Institute?

  3. Mike, thanks for mentioning the Met’s hackathon with MakerBot! I’d be happy to share more about it with those interested in learning about how we did it as well as where it is leading us.

    1. I wish I could be there — London is one of my favorite cities in the world (and you cannot beat a British pub, no way, no how — not even here in the beer capital of the US, Portland). I love that this professional exchange model is spreading like wild fire! I look forward to the first International Conference on Drinking About Museums ; )

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