IMLS support 2004-2006
A generous 18-month grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has allowed the significant expansion of
KMODDL holdings, as well as research that is improving user experience with the digital library and increasing its pedagogical utility.
Titled “A Digital Library of Printable Machines: Models for Collection Building and Educational Outreach,” the
IMLS project is led by the Cornell University Library (CUL), in partnership with Cornell’s College of Engineering, and
the Museum of Science (MoS) in Boston. MoS holds a collection of working models of mechanical movements and combinations of
drive mechanisms built by American engineer William M. Clark in the early 1900s. The IMLS grant is funding the creation of photos,
video, digital models, and descriptive records of the 120 models in the Museum’s Clark Collection of Mechanical Movements
and the integration of these materials into KMODDL. But beyond expanding the KMODDL collection, the IMLS project is studying the
potential of rapid prototyping (“3D printing”) technology for sharing and teaching with physical artifacts. The project
will also advance knowledge about the description, storage, delivery, and preservation of 3D objects in digital libraries.
Cornell engineers on the KMODDL team are using rapid prototyping technology to reproduce working physical models as 3-dimensional
“prints” from digital files. These replicas are based on computer-aided design (CAD) drawings of the Reuleaux and
Clark models, captured in stereolithography (STL) format. STL files can be exported for printing on a rapid prototyping fabricator.
Rapid prototyping builds a working physical object in a sequence of thermoplastic layers from a filament-wound coil that is heated
and extruded through a nozzle. The 3D-printed plastic reproductions of the original models are designed for incorporation into hands-on
exhibit interpretation activities for visitors to the Museum of Science and for teaching purposes in middle school science and technology
classrooms. Project researchers are studying the pedagogical and usability issues surrounding the use of the 3D prints in both
Another important facet of the IMLS “Printable Machines” project is researching is the investigation of best practices
for managing, preserving, and providing access to 3D digital objects into digital library collections.
The project’s focus on 3D printing technology stems from an understanding of this technology as one that converts between
information and artifact, thus exemplifying an intersection of library and museum work. The KMODDL team sees one role of
3D printing technology, in the near future, as a means for non-destructive exchange of working replicas of valuable or rare physical
objects between museum and library collections, or for direct dissemination to users for educational and research purposes.
Read the project proposal to IMLS