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Copies are in the Museum's DNA. The Museum bought, made or commissioned copies in a variety of materials from the very beginning. Alongside 'original' works, they formed a Victorian encyclopedia of international ornament. The Museum not only actively sought out copies, it also harnessed revolutionary new technologies for producing them. Electrotyping and photography were perfect blends of science and art that complemented traditional plaster casting. So successful was the scheme that one writer, MD Conway, likened a visit to the Museum as taking a trip around the world in South Kensington.
From the early 20th century, the copy's reputation deteriorated. Copies were sold, destroyed or confined to the basement. The Cast Courts were lucky to survive post-War modernisation. Digital technology has breathed new life into the copy. Scanning and photogrammetry allow high-quality images to be created on screen in three dimensions. 3D printing and CNC milling render digital productions into material form or provide models for adapting and reworking artworks. Digital copying in museums suggest a brave new world of documenting and sharing. This talk shows how these ideas are rooted in the past, identical to those played out in the 1850s but expressed for today's audiences.
Visit our SoundCloud channel to listen to past Lunchtime Lectures: soundcloud.com/vamuseum/sets/v-a-lunchtime-lecture-series