Makerspaces are places of community, convening, and collaboration. They are spaces where anyone can “teach, learn, and practice creative skills”[1]. As such, this article charts our journey as students, staff, and faculty who collaborated within and beyond our academic makerspace to produce an exhibition in winter 2022 at the University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. This project was a five-week-long undertaking in an interdisciplinary museum studies course in collaboration with The Construct (our university makerspace), the Museum Studies program in the College of Liberal Arts, and the Vignelli Center for Design Studies. We reproduced items from the design archive and presented them to a wider audience as an embodiment of community, convening, and collaboration. We propose that this experience, which embraces makerspaces as sites of informal learning, in fact, mirrors the positioning of museums as sites of informal learning and the ethos of makerspaces themselves. Further, we suggest that museum studies courses, and other projectbased courses, are well-suited for academic makerspace applications and offer suggestions for course and project development. Below we outline the nature of the course and this project, the role and purpose of the makerspace in our work, our workflow, and results before suggesting additional applications. As co-authors on this paper, we represent perspectives as undergraduate students, staff managing our university’s makerspace, and faculty in a liberal arts college within a technological university. While all faculty and staff of this project had familiarity with 3-D printing, 2 of 24 students had previously used a 3-D printer, meaning our project required the embrace of the makerspace ethos literally— to get the job done—and figuratively, as we used this mindset in our approach to all facets of the project. Our onsite and online exhibition focused on 3-D printed objects, designed by industrial designers of international renown, comprising the OTHR collection at RIT’s Vignelli Center. Utilizing resources of The Construct, we printed 10 “everyday” objects using .stl files from OTHR. Originally, the files were print-on-demand fabrications of 3-D printed ceramic, porcelain, and bronze: they bore witness to the hallmark of limited-edition processes. We extended this concept into the familiar by using PLA-filament 3-D printing methods and materials to re-imagine and re-frame these designer-made objects as 3D-printed-exhibition objects. Through our 3-D replication, the high-design became familiar, reproducible, and exhibition-worthy. The conjoining of exhibitions and 3-D printing is not new. Since its inception, 3-D printing has been an invaluable tool for museum education, accessibility, and research. Many replicas of fragile and priceless artifacts have been created to be used as tactile learning materials, as well as to make museum collections more accessible for the visually impaired. Some institutions have turned to 3-D printing to assist with research on delicate objects such as cuneiform tablets, creating durable replicas that allow multiple teams around the world to work together on these objects [2]. In our project, we created durable, high-quality replicas of fragile or previously inaccessible (either by cost or material) high design objects that could be used for display, tactile experience, and critical thinking about the role of design in everyday life. The partnership between RIT’s museum studies program and 3-D printing was not new, either. In 2018-19, a museum studies student led a team, based at The Construct, to design and create 30 sets of appropriately-sized 3-D printed hands for use by a living history museum to showcase their Victorian clothing collection [3]. Building upon these contexts of makerspaces and our root discipline of museum studies, we first introduced the methods of 3-D printing in this spring 2022 course by holding our class in the makerspace. Having access to a variety of resources, including 3-D printing, enabled us to visualize the capacity of makerspaces as spaces for exhibit creation and our classroom ideation. The Construct is a discipline-agnostic makerspace that falls under the umbrella of Innovation and Entrepreneurship research at RIT, the space encourages an inclusive and diverse user base and seeks to foster interdisciplinarity. Such an environment invites participation from all of the University's nine colleges.

Date of creation, presentation, or exhibit


Document Type

Conference Paper

Department, Program, or Center

Department of History (CLA)


RIT – Main Campus