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More than Just a Novelty? Museum Visitor Interactions with 3D Printed Artifacts

Thesis by Tasia L. Williams (2017)

Museums have been increasingly interested in ways to apply 3D printing technology. However, little research has been conducted on how the public interacts with 3D printing in museums. The goal of this study is to describe how visitors to the Burke Museum in Seattle, WA responded to and interacted with 3D printed artifacts alongside the originals. I conducted thirty interviews and analyzed both the participants’ verbal and non-verbal responses using an embodied interaction framework. Results from this study show that the public is enthusiastic about the idea of museums incorporating 3D printing into their galleries. The data suggest that 3D prints provide an opportunity for visitors to learn from and interact with artifacts through their sense of touch, which is an experience visitors would like to see more of in museums. This study seeks to inform museum professionals on how they can leverage this new technology to enhance visitor experiences.

Keywords: Class of 2017, museum, museum studies, museology, research, visitors, 3D printing


Williams, T., & Morrissey, Kris. (2017). More than just a novelty? Museum visitor interactions with 3D printed artifacts.  [University of Washington Libraries].