3D printing to enable people with sight loss to touch paintings in Lancaster museums

Lancaster district’s art collection will soon be brought to life for people with sight loss thanks to Lancaster City Museums, Lancaster University and Galloway’s Society for the Blind in Morecambe.

Two university Engineering students will work with the City Museums and Galloway’s to 3D-print relief versions of paintings from the museum’s art collection.

The project will see people with sight loss working with the university and the museums to develop effective methods for enabling those with visual impairments to engage with the museum collections. This is likely to include audio description as well as 3D relief printing.

The long-term aim of the project is that the museums will be able to do this for all future exhibitions using museum collections and so a manufacturing process (including a 3D printer) will be commissioned for the museums and staff trained in how to use it.

Everyone who is sighted will also be very welcome to engage with the 3D relief prints and it is hoped to also 3D print other items from the collection for museum visitors to handle in the future.

Professor Claudio Paoloni, of the School of Engineering at Lancaster University, said: “One of the missions of Engineering is to find solutions for overcoming barriers. I am delighted that the School of Engineering has contributed, in collaboration with the Lancaster City Museum and Galloways, our expertise in 3D printing, to offer those with sight loss a new way to enjoy the wonderful artworks of the Lancaster City Museum.”

Andrew Coleman, Learning Skills & Lifestyle Manager for Galloway’s, said “At Galloway’s we are delighted to be part of the pioneering ‘Feeling as Seeing project”. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Galloway’s community to shape the future of exhibits, making them accessible to those with a visual impairment”.

The City Museums are run by Lancaster City Council.

Councillor Sandra Thornberry, cabinet member for arts, culture, leisure and wellbeing, said: “This is such an exciting and inclusive way forward and I am delighted that our museums, the university and Galloway’s have worked together to secure this funding which will help to make our museums more accessible to those with sight loss.”

The co-designed project is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Impact Acceleration Account, which supports Lancaster University researchers to translate their work into broader societal and economic benefits.

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