Bringing the V&A to hospital schools

November 2, 2021
3D printed replica of a V&A statuette: Two bears

In the Learning team, we have been eager to explore how 3D printing can bring the power of object-based learning to those who may not be able to physically access the V&A. 

Partnering with Great Ormond Street Hospital School, we have developed Museum In Your Room – a pilot project to see how 3D printed copies of objects might be used as a springboard for learning, in response to teacher and student need. 

From existing scans of objects made during the ReACH project, teachers at Great Ormond Street chose three animal related objects they felt would be of interest and relevance to their students. We worked with 3D printing experts ThinkSee3D to create realistic models that match the look, texture and weight of the original objects, and that are safe to use in an hospital environment. 

3D printed replica of a V&A statuette: Crab
3D printed replica of a V&A statuette: Octopus

To help us understand the context of the hospital school, we shadowed lessons and hosted a research forum with teachers. Insight into needs, challenges, and opportunities helped shape our approach to designing resources around the chosen 3D printed copies. 

We learnt that teachers needed adaptable activities for a range of ages and abilities. Flexibility around individual and collaborative working was important, with opportunities for students to join at any point. Teachers also wanted to know more about the V&A and museum practice, as well as specific object stories and how both the original object and its 3D printed copy were made.  

In response, we produced a digital resource folder that contained the information teachers desired, including activities which use technology and materials that are easily accessible in the hospital school. As part of this we created digital 3D scans of the objects which can be explored using augmented or virtual reality applications. We also developed a framework for students to encounter the objects, by thinking about the questions : 

  • Look: What does it look like? Describe its texture, shape and form.
  • Touch: What does it feel like? What is it made from? How is it made? 
  • Interact: Who or what is it for? Why was it made? How do you interact with it? 
  • Imagine: How else could it be used? How might you redesign it for another purpose? What other stories could it tell? 
  • Share: What can you tell someone else about what you’ve discovered? 

These questions were accompanied by sensory activities designed by V&A artist in residence Gayle Chong Kwan, encouraging students to experience the objects in different ways. Viewing the objects using filters, reflections/shadows, or exploring through non-visual senses with closed eyes, meant that perception was altered, inspiring curiosity and creativity. In prompting students to describe and illustrate their sensory experience, this provided a foundation for building narratives – inspired by Xavier de Maistre’s book A Journey Around My Room. The accessible digital tools Comic Life and Just a Line were incorporated too, encouraging students to create their own stories using digital technology. 

Work produced by students at the Great Ormond Street Hospital School as part of 'Museum In Your Room'

While the objects were on loan to Great Ormond Street Hospital, we hosted a critical coffee session with teachers. During this we learnt how the resources were being used, what we could do to improve, and collected surveys. 

We are using this feedback to develop new resources and activities around two new 3D printed objects. These will be tested with teachers in the autumn, and we look forward to creating a pool of objects and resources that can be loaned to the wider hospital school community. 

‘Museum In Your Room’ was generously supported by The Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson Foundation. 

With thanks to the teachers at Great Ormond Street Hospital School. 

0 comments so far, view or add yours

Add a comment

Please read our privacy policy to understand what we do with your data.


Join today and enjoy unlimited free entry to all V&A exhibitions, Members-only previews and more

Find out more


Find inspiration in our incredible range of exclusive gifts, jewellery, books, fashion, prints & posters and much more...

Find out more