SIGNED magazine #29

33 just to have a realistic reproduction of a famous artefact in their home, many others use the material as a canvas to build upon. Experimental printing and modifying of artefacts, or rendering objects into video games and virtual environments, are just some of the possible artistic endeavours. Scans are of sufficient quality to make anything from tiny pieces of jewellery to a gigantic Mardi Gras float. Essentially, anyone can do anything with whatever is there, and they encourage people to let their imaginations take hold. For Beck, however, there is a deeper meaning behind giving free reign to use STW materials, "Promoting creativity and perpetuating the creative life of an object, and giving people the tools to do this, is a way to actively consume and interact with culture, making it a living thing, extending the creative life of objects, and adding to the story of an object long considered ancient history. In this way, it makes cultural heritage more than just something for rich people and elite institutions to possess. It becomes a living and evolving cultural artefact and experience because it is passing through the hands of artists and creators, helping to create a further story." Moreover, for STW, these stories aren't just about famous statues and relics from antiquity; Beck insists that anything that has cultural meaning, even if only on a small scale, can be scanned and uploaded to the site to become part of the global cultural milieu. Rights and responsibilities for heritage custodians Beck is keen to position STW as part of a movement to share global cultures, and is sensitive to the contentious history many museums and cultural institutions in the West have when acquiring items of great cultural significance. To this end, STW is actively partnering with cultural institutions, both to share as much of the shared heritage as possible, and to support people with deep cultural connections in getting access to their cultural heritage locked away in museums. For Beck, it is clear: "Contentious objects and culturally sensitive goods should be copied and displayed in museums, with the originals being returned to where they rightly belong." To make his point, Beck brings up the example of the Easter Island heads sitting in The British Museum, which forces the Rapa Nui people to travel long distances to pay respects and give offerings to these items of great cultural significance. "To not return the original but only give a digital copy is another form of digital colonialism," asserts Beck. Even when considering whether to scan an artefact, cultural sensitivities must be prioritised. If Beck comes across work that is outside of his UK male experience, he will reach out to relevant communities to ask their thoughts on the artefact being copied. In some cases, it may not be culturally appropriate to put printable versions online. At the risk of being refused permission to scan, he defers to the people who are directly connected with the objects to give their consent and the opportunity to tell their story about the object. The prospect of helping repatriate cultural artefacts is one upside, but technology development, such as drones and progress in 3D printing, is also expanding the scope and scale of STW activities. For example, it is now possible to use archival footage to recreate objects that are lost due to natural disasters or human causes— which is a step beyond STW users constantly trying to put the arms back on Venus de Milo or print a nose for the Sphinx. International expansion of STW activities is also gathering speed, with programs having been established in numerous countries, including India and China, where groups of people are trying to resuscitate what has been lost over time and to cultural upheaval. STW is always looking for collaborators, and they have some ability to support new groups with 3D printers and training, and help establish scanning experience labs. Virtual heritage is not the answer For all its possibilities, Beck has reservations about the current rush to digitise everything, as it may not be necessary, or appropriate, and there are natural limits to be recognised and understood. "Digitising should be done with purpose. We want to help people appreciate cultural heritage as a shared experience, not as an activity mediated by large corporations that have captured huge amounts of data and want to monetise it in virtual worlds." Fearful that a tsunami of virtual cultural production