Sydney Living Museum’s pursuit of ‘hands-on’ education has taken a morbid turn with 3D printing. As explained by Nerida Campbell, curator of the Justice and Police Museum, the initiative successfully printed a replica Death Mask of famed bushranger Captain Moonlight. The 3D print and subsequent video intend to supplement the Virtual Excursion “Law of the Land: Troopers, Trackers and Bushrangers”. Thanks to a MakerBot Replicator 2, the mask could be 3D printed.
Originally, death masks preserved the likeness of an individual after a hanging or other form of execution that left the head intact. The process involved shaving all hair and applying plaster to the head. In many ways, it is a similar process to a version of 3D printing by created a mold to be filled by another material. However, thanks to 3DP, there is a much less invasive process available to capture the likeness of an object. By 3D scanning the original mold, the images can be uploaded to software and sent to the printer using a standard plastic made from corn starch.
Every print brings its unique challenge, and the death mask is no exception. Because of the size of the print, a replica of a human head, Sydney Living Museum needed to print the mask in four parts and glue the pieces together for the final product. Now, students and those interested can hold the head in their hands, a mold of a man hanged for bushranging. The story speaks to a history often forgotten or in annals unavailable to a tangible experience. 3D printing brings that history alive even if in the form of a death mask.