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Thursday, June 1 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Textiles) 3D Scanning to Create Custom Storage Forms for the Charles James collection in the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Authors: Sarah Scaturro, Taylor Healy
Costume Institute conservators were inspired to explore 3D scanning as a means to bypass the inefficiency and inaccuracy of hand carving storage forms for twenty-eight sculptural Charles James gowns and coats in the collection. These masterpieces—mostly strapless, form-fitting dresses with complicated structures and layers—present a challenge for storage. The gowns cannot be laid in flat storage as they will collapse and lose their structure. They cannot be hung on traditional archival hangers since the objects can weigh nearly twenty pounds, thus causing tension on vulnerable areas leading to deformation and tears. Improper storage not only subjects these pieces to unnecessary stress but compromises James' design intentions as the gowns lose the structure that James masterfully composed. Conservators realized custom body forms were necessary to create a proxy for the human body to sufficiently support these dresses in storage. These custom forms were created by 3D scanning extant exhibition forms as well as accessioned original forms James created. An affordable, consumer-grade 3D scanner was used to successfully capture the ‘geometry', or surface of the forms. The 3D files were edited through a series of Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs and sent to a fabricator to cut Ethafoam from a 5-axis Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine. The forms will be padded and covered to ensure the dress contacts an appropriately safe surface. These forms are intended to serve as the permanent support for the gowns, requiring a multipurpose design for handling, storage, travel and photography. A custom interchangeable hook attached to a pole and flange system will these forms allowing them to be hung or fixed on a base as needed. The advantages of 3D scanning and CNC routing include accuracy and reproducibility of a form at any point. The 3D digital files, in theory, can last forever and can be exchanged digitally. In addition to creating a suitable storage solution for the James collection, the objective was to demonstrate an efficient and effective method to storing complex objects. This technique was made possible without high-end equipment and serves as an affordable, accessible alternative to the hand-carving method that yields a rough, imperfect storage form.  

avatar for Taylor Healy

Taylor Healy

Assistant Conservator, Art Institute of Chicago
New York based pre-program student interning at the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art
avatar for Sarah Scaturro

Sarah Scaturro

Head Conservator, The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sarah Scaturro is the Head Conservator of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is in charge of the conservation laboratory and the preservation of the fashion collection. She was previously the textile conservator and assistant curator of fashion at the Cooper-Hewitt... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 3:00pm - 3:30pm CDT
Crystal Ballroom C Lobby Level, West Tower