Awaking the 17th Century ivory flute

2020/02/08 — The Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK, collection is home to over 7000 musical instruments from around the world, from archaeological bone flutes to electronic keyboards. Over 400 instruments are made from bone or ivory, such as ivory blast trumpets and bone flutes and they are often requested to be played by members of originating communities, researchers and students.

Unfortunately, many of these instruments are either too fragile to be played and risk being irreversibly damaged, or have been shown to be contaminated by old pesticides treatments used to prevent damage from museum pests.

To offer an acceptable alternative to playing historic musical instruments, the museum has started a project to 3D printing replicas. The goal is making the instruments as authentically as possible, so it not only looks and feels like the original, but sounds like it, too.Thanks to funding from the Oxford University IT Innovation Challenge the museum has the opportunity to test the latest in 3D printing technology to see which materials and methods can closely reproduce the sound and feel of the original.

This project will CT scan a playable 17th Century ivory flute, and print a range of replicas using the latest resins and composites, using a number of different 3D printing methods. The replicas will then be compared to the original, assessing the sound quality, appearance and playability.

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