2017: The Rat Who Ate History

Project allowing the TNA Education Team to expand their specialist educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision by working with local schools.

This article by Rachel Hillman and Emily Morris from the TNA Education Team explains one of the more unusual projects funded by the Friends.


In 2017 the Friends purchased an Ultimaker 3D printer for the Collection Care Department.

With some past conservation treatments no longer being aligned with present day conservation practices, this cutting edge technology enables new and innovative approaches with regard to the conservation, preservation, display, safe handling and storage of three dimensional objects from TNA’s vast collection.

The 3D printer is able to create complex geometries and achieve remarkable design intricacy, providing the perfect solution in its capacity to print 3D copies of artefacts, such as broken and fragile wax seals. It allows for these delicate objects to be reproduced in a safe and useable way, enhancing their accessibility as well as giving the opportunity to carry out repairs in line with current conservation standards.

Along with this, the printer will also be able to assist the staff and researchers teaching students on TNA’s Educational Programmes. By producing sensory aids replicated from the originals it can add an innovative dimension and engagement with the artefacts that was not possible before.

In fact the variety and diversity of uses already suggested by the different TNA departments sound very exciting and we look forward to some amazing results.

This is the 3D printed version of The National Archives’ mummified rat found by Henry Cole and which led to a campaign in the 1830s to have the government’s records properly stored and cared for. The outcome of the campaign was the setting up of the Public Record Office.