Queensland State Library to 3D print replica of rare braille globe

Oct 11, 2017 | By Julia

It’s been over 60 years since Richard Frank Tunley created his original braille globe in Queensland, Australia. Known as “the fairy godfather of blind children,” Tunley dedicated his life to improving the lives of visually impaired children and adults by producing braille globes, maps, models, doll houses and games. Among those creations, Tunley’s original braille globe stands out as an important learning tool, and an invaluable heritage item in Australian history. In recognition of Tunley’s work, the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) and the Queensland Library Foundation have come together to recreate the heritage globe ‒ via 3D printing ‒ for a younger generation to enjoy.

SLQ technicians will replicate the rare globe, which Tunley created by installing metal plates on a wooden sphere, thanks to recent technological advancements and a $10,000 state funding package. The individual landmasses were originally shown by raised shapes and labels inscribed in braille, a unique “Tunley touch” that SLQ staff plan to recreate through photogrammetry.

High-fidelity photographs will be taken from all angles, and then virtually pieced together using 3D modelling software to make an exact digital rendering. “That then gets made into plans that are printed out on a 3D printer,” SLQ content manager director Margaret Warren said. “[The globe] won’t be the same as the original because it will be in a 3D resin or plastic.”

Still, the 3D printed replica will allow the new globe to be touched, handled, and explored just as the original was intended, allowing Tunley’s vision to come to life once again. Accompanying digital plans and learning notes will be shared internationally as well.

The fragile 1950s version, on the other hand, will be rescued from storage, treated by SLQ preservation staff, and placed on display as part of a State Library of Queensland exhibition starting in December.

Richard Frank Tunley

SLQ State Librarian and CEO Vicki McDonald noted that the original Tunley globe remains a marvel of Queensland ingenuity, enterprise and skill. “The Tunley globe is a truly remarkable creation and a unique, perhaps unknown, Queensland story,” McDonald said.

The $10,000 funding package was recently awarded to the project at the SLQ’s annual Crowd Giving event. There, a room full of heritage lovers and philanthropists debated and discussed three new SLQ projects before voting that the Tunley globe’s restoration and replication was most worthy of their collective financing.

“SLQ is immensely grateful to the donors who have put their money behind making this fascinating piece of Queensland history discoverable and accessible for a new generation of Queenslanders,” McDonald said.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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