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Paper Works: Views on a Virus

Updated: May 21, 2021

Developing sustainable paper-based prototypes that explore the miniature worlds of viruses, bringing them to a tangible scale.

Paper hand craft techniques, digital printing and laser manufacturing technology were used in prototyping a series of models made out of card and paper materials that have the potential to be used within STEM public engagement activities. The designs draw upon Cabinet of Curiosity's extensive research into paper toy models, origami, optical devices and pop-up books.

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio said about the work,

"Our research into paper toys has revealed the educational value in visually communicating science and technology through playful learning for people of all ages."

Dr Lee said,

“The six prototypes explore different ways in which to visually communicate virus structure, infection and spread, with a timely focus on the coronavirus (COVID-19).”

The prototypes made within the scope of the project include:

  • An optical perspective box, inspired by 17th Century Dutch perspective boxes, that incorporates perspectival distortions and trompe l’oeil techniques. Peep holes in the sides of the box provide immersive views on a scaled model of a virus contained within a domestic interior space. Experiments with RGB optics tell the story of the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19) from the room, through the airways and into the lungs through scene changes.

  • A pop-up book inspired by a Victorian anatomy book series, ‘Philips' Popular Manikin: of the Human Body’ uses gate fold map techniques to reveal the virus within a human body.

  • A hanging mobile sculpture of a cross-section through the coronavirus (COVID-19). The sculpture moves in a gentle breeze, reminding the viewer that the pathogen is transmitted through the air.

  • A tunnel book featuring a series of cut-paper panels engineered like an accordion depicting a view through the coronavirus (COVID-19).

  • A cut and assemble pop-up card model of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This style of model is also used inside the perspective box.

  • A series of origami geometric forms suggestive of virus structures made from paper map materials suggesting the impact of the pandemic is global and not geographically isolated.

About the collaborators

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio designer maker Caroline Collinge and architect Edmond Salter, work between the visual arts and disciplines of architecture, theatre and textiles with an expertise in paper crafts. Collaborations have investigated hidden histories, stories, architecture, places and crafts to develop narrative-led temporary exhibits, installations and public engagement activities. Projects have been exhibited across the UK and internationally in a variety of settings that include museums, theatres, libraries, heritage sites, outdoor festivals, arts venues and public spaces.

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio website:

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio blog:

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio Twitter:

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio Vimeo:

Dr Andrew Lee is currenly the Manager of the Bragg Centre for Materials Research. During this collaboration, he was a researcher in the Bioelectronics group within the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. You can find him on Twitter at

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