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VCU Archaeology

Scanning in Williamsburg

by Ashley McCuistion, Virtual Curation Laboratory intern

Last Wednesday Dr. Means, Courtney Bowles, Alan Huber and I took a trip to Williamsburg to give a demonstration of the digital scanner to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.  We started the day by meeting with Emily Williams, Conservator of Archaeological Materials, to discuss our plans and drop off the equipment.  The demonstration was not to be held until the afternoon, so we spent a few hours walking around Colonial Williamsburg and checking out the archaeological digs that are taking place there.

Setting up for the demonstration!

When we returned, we once again met with Emily, who kindly helped us get situated in the conference room and brought us some artifacts to scan, including a small pair of 19th Century leather shoes, which really sparked everyone’s interest.  This was my first time working with the team and using the equipment, so I was a bit nervous at first, but Courtney showed me how to set up the scanner and Dr. Means gave me a quick tutorial on how it works.  Meanwhile, Alan set out some artifacts that he printed using our new 3D printer, which makes plastic replicas of artifacts we have scanned.

A 19th Century leather shoe (top) and an 18th Century Chinese Export Porcelain bowl (bottom) being scanned.

We began the demonstration by scanning one of the shoes, which are not part of the archaeological collection, but were an interesting experiment nonetheless.  The scan captured the color and texture surprisingly well, and everything but the shoelaces recorded without issue.  By the time the scan was completed, the room was filled with excited observers who were eager to learn more about the machine and see some of the artifacts from their collections scanned.  The next item that was brought to us was an 18th Century Chinese Export Porcelain bowl with gilt edges and a beautifully painted design on both the interior and exterior.  The team was concerned that it would not record properly due to the shiny glaze and the way the lasers swirled inside the bowl as it turned, but the end result was very good, although there were some gaps in the data.  Everyone was especially impressed with this scan when Dr. Means switched the color off to show only the shape and texture of the bowl, which was so clear that the brushstrokes of the paint could be seen!

Sheffield fused plate box (top), and 18th Century gilded sterling silver fruit serving basket (bottom).

The last two items were brought to us by Janine Skerry, Curator of Metals, who was very excited to test the potential of our scanner with some of her more challenging artifacts.  The first was a small metal Sheffield-fused plate box, which had a depiction of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia on the front.  This box was very shiny, which we knew would not register well, but we attempted to scan it anyway.  As expected, it did not work properly and we ended the scan after only two rotations.  The last item was a large gilded sterling silver fruit serving basket, which was made in England during the 18th Century.  The design of the basket was incredibly complex and ornate, and after one quick scan of the handle it was clear that it would record properly.  Dr. Means discussed the limitations of the scanner when attempting to record metal objects, and said that it is likely these artifacts may scan wellwhen given a powder coating, which he would be happy to try next time!

After the scanning was complete and all of the questions were answered, we packed up and headed home.  Everyone appeared to enjoy the demonstration and they all seemed very excited about the prospect of using this technology.  In all, it was a very successful day and I am sure we will be returning to Williamsburg again soon!

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Scanning in Williamsburg

  1. Just where did you actually end up getting the suggestions to create ““Scanning in Williamsburg
    the Virtual Curation Unit @ VCU”? Thanks for your effort ,Britt

    Posted by http://tinyurl.com/cmcolynam49406 | February 7, 2013, 6:46 am

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