by Ashley McCuistion, Digital Curator
On Friday, March 15th the Virtual Curation Laboratory and our student organization, the Virtual Archaeology Scanning Team (VAST), hosted a talk by archaeologist Taft Kiser. Taft was kind enough to come to VCU and give a lecture on 17th Century clay smoking pipes, which began with a brief history of his work at Flowerdew Hundred during what he refers to as “the Golden Age of Flowerdew”. His stories about the site and the incredible people he worked with were both entertaining and enlightening, and from there he went on to discuss the production of various historic smoking pipes, including “Bookbinder” pipes, which are clay pipes with very beautiful designs that look like, as Taft says, the sort of designs one would see on bookbinding. He also talked about “Star Maker” pipes, which intrigued members of the Virtual Curation Laboratory, as we wondered how well we could study the subtle variations in the different sets of “Star Maker” pipes on a three-dimensional model.
After the talk we spoke to some students about pipes and 3D scanning, and showed them our great assortment of plastic pipe replicas that seems to be growing each day. We then brought Taft back to the lab to show him our 3D scanner and printer and demonstrated what can be done with them, which he was very supportive of and even gave us some great ideas about future research possibilities! Before he left, Allen Huber printed an artifact that was loaned to us by Taft back in December from CRI’s collections. The artifact was a William’s Cleaner bullet with a ramrod impression on the top that was recovered from a Civil War site in Fredericksburg. The bullet was recently featured in a New York Times article that Taft helped put together for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. You can read about the article and our involvement at https://vcuarchaeology3d.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/fbg-150-the-new-york-times-and-the-virtual-curation-laboratory/.
We gave him the bullet replica and thanked him for taking the time to come talk to us. We all very much enjoyed his lecture and appreciated his insight into our work at the Virtual Curation Laboratory. I hope we will be able to work with him again soon, perhaps with some of the pipes he discussed!