Heists And Hacks: What’s The Difference?

On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and roamed the museum’s galleries, stealing thirteen works of art.

Perhaps the biggest property theft in recorded history, this 1990 theft of paintings including Rembrandt’s only known seascape, remains unsolved. Holy shhhhhmoly! That sounds more like a movie plot1 , than something that could have happened in the 90’s.

It’s Day 2 at the Met MakerBot Hackathon and everyone’s down to work on their new art, and it’s crazy to think that we’re at this point. Because here’s the thing: we thought we’d have to come in and “steal” this stuff, until the Met listened to the idea and got excited about it and helped us take it a few steps further.

The idea of an art heist has still been tossed around. Let’s face it: heists make good stories. It’s good drama about a few people against a big group and you start cheering for the underdog. But what you never see in the movies is all the people who won’t see that art because of some trickery.

Food for thought:

•  Just last year, a drawing by Picasso was stolen from a gallery in San Francisco. The gallery’s president, Rowland Weinstein, said his “greatest fear” was that “the person will realize it’s unsellable and will dispose of it in a less-than-proper manner.”

•  The frames of the stolen pieces from the Gardener Museum, mentioned above, are still hanging empty on the walls, just waiting for the art to return.

So what’s the difference between these events and what we’re doing? We’re preserving art and making sure everyone has access to it in a brand new way. We’re not limiting the number of people who can see the art, we’re expanding that number, just like a museum is supposed to.

The Met already does this! For so many pieces in the collection, there is an online catalog with a bunch of information, so that even “virtual” visitors to the museum can experience their favorite pieces.


Now the page you see above has a new cousin. It has a Thingiverse page where you can get the 3D file for the actual Thing. You can make it and hold it in your hand.


Yesterday, when our CEO Bre was walking around capturing things in the museum, a guard pulled him aside and told him to be sure to get a model of this marble lion. It sits at about hand height, he said, and that means kids might ultimately rub the nose right off of it. Now we can be sure we have a digital version of it in 3D so that we always know what that nose looked like.


What would you preserve? What part of your town will you enter in the Capture Your Town project? Take a picture, write a story, and share it with us. Tell us here on the blog, or on twitter, @makerbot, with the hashtag #futuremuseum.


  1. actually that does sound a lot like the end of The Town []