CT Scans & 3-D Printing Bring Antique Instruments Back To Life

Eighteenth and 19th century antique instruments that had fallen silent are making music once again. University of Connecticut researchers have turned to two unlikely cutting-edge tools to recreate delicate components that are making instruments functional.

Their work replacing broken or fragile parts is letting audiences hear the sounds of 19th century saxophones made by the instruments’ creator, Adolphe Sax, a 1770 recorder and even an ophicleide – a 19th century tuba-like brass instrument.

“The impetus behind the study was to find a way to get better copies of the original antiques without subjecting them to any risks and subjecting the process to the errors of measurement by hand,” says Robert Howe, a medical doctor who is also a doctoral candidate at the university’s School of Fine Arts. “The thought is that if one can take a hands-off set of measurements and then replicate the instrument directly, can one get a more accurate representation of the original? I would hope so.”

Read more and hear the instruments make music again below.

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Genoese Medicine Chest, 1562-1566

This magnificent and unique medicine chest was made for Vincenzo Giustiniani (d. 1570), the last Genoese governor of the island of Chios in the eastern Aegean Sea. He ruled Chios from 1562 until the Turks expelled the Genoese in 1566 after an occupation of some two hundred years. On a box from the middle drawer is painted the symbol of Chios – a black eagle above a three-towered castle. The chest contains 126 bottles and pots for drugs, some of which still have their original contents. These include rhubarb powder, ointment for worms, juniper water and mustard oil. The chest measures nearly a metre long. The painting on the inside of the lid is a later addition. It remained in the Giustiniani family until it was bought by Henry Wellcome in 1924.


Vintage Anatomy Fold-Out Illustrations, 1901.

Three pages from a rare antique anatomy textbook published in 1901, featuring beautiful scientific illustrations by E. J. Stanley. Each fold-out consists of three layers revealing a different dimension of the body — from skin to muscle and bone to organ and tissue.

Wax Anatomical Figure of Reclining Woman; Florence, Italy, 1771-1800

Why is this anatomical woman special? Because she has a sexual allure that is not necessary for anatomical teaching purposes. Wax anatomical models of this period had different uses for different audiences. In the European anatomical tradition, the standard or normative body was always male. Female bodies were studied in terms of how they differed. In practice this meant a focus on their reproductive capacities – most often they were pregnant, with a foetus as one of the removable pieces.

But does this explain the model’s passive, sexual pose? Female wax anatomical models were often referred to as ‘Venuses’, after the goddess of love and beauty. Reclining on silk or velvet cushions, in positions copied from works of art, they often had flowing hair and jewellery, which added nothing to their anatomical use. They served to show not just physical differences but also gender differences, as perceived in European culture at that time.