I'd previously loaded up the blog with a series of Stranger Things-themed placeholders as I worked on a major project. Except, when I planned them all I was going to make one thing, then ended up making another as they counted down. The end result:

Paper Machete.gif

So what is it? Originally, it was going to be a cutaway of the skirt from an Atlas booster, revealing interactive details of the rocket's internals. However, in preparation for meeting with someone from a museum housed on a WWII airbase which flew B-24 Liberators, I switched to making the very nose of a Liberator I dubbed "The Paper Mache-te."

Again, what is it? It's a portion of one of these WWII bombers built out of cardboard and covered in paper mache for its sculpting properties. It includes the Liberator's bombadier's station (the lower glass seen in the GIF) and the nose turret above that. I built it as a test of an idea I'd previously posted about (see "Preliminaries for a Small Museum"), where museums could turn the rarity of flagship artifacts to their advantage by the very fact that a replica is more flexible than the original. How the replica is produced can present teaching opportunities that would be impossible with an original's demanding preservation requirements. 

I envisioned creating such replicas out of concrete for its durability and relatively low cost. However, concrete's permanence and malleability requires some kind of forming and testing beforehand—enter cardboard and paper mache as rapid prototyping materials. Not only would such a prototype allow for structural testing and checking the accuracy of the production before any permanent, and heavy, concrete was poured, depending on the article, the prototype could even be used at an event to gauge patron interest in different interactive features. 

The total cost of this prototype was less than $5—I found the boxes for free and only bought a bottle of white glue (which was actually unnecessary) and a bag of flour. Paper was donated by family members. Building this prototype took somewhere between 60 and 80 hours. Even though this is a small section of the aircraft, it suggests that even a complete airframe could be done in less than 95,000 hours (the time it took to restore the Collings' Foundation B-24 Liberator to flying status), much less the 270,000 hours an all-volunteer group in Werribee, Australia has spent restoring their Liberator.

While I was unhappy with the completed product, the process has promise in expanding a museum collection in an educational way.

Comment