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VCU Archaeology

While the Scanner was Scanning: Introducting Intern Lauren Volkers

Note: the following blog was written by Lauren Volkers, a VCU student who is doing an internship with the Virtual Curation Laboratory this fall.  She did some preliminary work for her internship at the Virginia Museum of Natural History a couple of weeks ago–B. K. Means, project director.

On Tuesday August 6, 2013 Dr. Bernard Means, Ashley McCuistion, and I headed to the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH) in Martinsville, Virginia. When we first arrived we met Dr. Elizabeth Moore, the Curator of Archaeology at the VMNH and then Ashley showed me how they set up the 3D Scanner. After everything was set up and ready to go we discussed what was going to be scanned and got to tour the museum for a little while the scanner was scanning.

Ashley McCuistion excited about Mousterian flake tools.

Ashley McCuistion excited about Mousterian flake tools.

The Virginia Museum of Natural History is one of my favorite museums because it’s very interactive and organized really well. There are so many things that catch your eye and it’s educational at the same time. While we were there we scanned quite a few objects some being part of a loon’s cranium, a shell fragment, and an Aztec ceramic head.

Dr. Bernard Means and Ashley McCuistion scanning artifacts at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

Dr. Bernard Means and Ashley McCuistion scanning artifacts at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

While we were there we were even approached by Dr. Alton Dooley, the Curator of Paleontology at VMNH, about scanning whale fossils. Dr. Dooley approached us about this project because they currently have an adult fossil whale skeleton, but only have a juvenile skull. So we would come in and scan parts of the adult skeleton and down size it so it would be juvenile size so they can put both the adult and juvenile whale skeleton on display. While we were at the VMNH we got to scan the axis and atlas of the adult whale, which was really cool.

art of the fossil whale vertebrae.

Part of the fossil whale vertebrae.

Dr. Nancy Moncrief, the Curator of Mammalogy at VMNH, also stopped by and showed Dr. Means, Ashley and I the difference and similarities between the remains of Eastern Fox Squirrels and Gray Squirrels. It was really interesting because just looking at them they look very similar, but the main difference can be seen under UV light because both give off different colors.

The best part about scanning artifacts at VMNH is that I got to come away with a research project that I could possibly present at conferences. The idea for my research project is thanks to Ray Vodden, VMNH Research Technician, because he showed us how they make replicas and we can compare the mold and replicas with our printed replicas. For my research project I plan on scanning and measuring the original artifact, a carved man on one side and a bird on the other, with other replicas made out of different materials to see if there is a size loss or gain, loss of detail, and which replica would be better for different environments (i.e. class room, museum exhibits, etc.). This specific artifact was chosen because there is very little information about it. All that I know is that it came from collections belonging to the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), but might be from anywhere in the world. So if anyone recognizes it or knows something that looks similar please let me know at volkerslj@vcu.edu.

The front and the back of the artifact that I will be researching from the Virginia Military Institute.

The front and the back of the artifact that I will be researching from the Virginia Military Institute.

On the last day to have a little bit of fun Ashley and I dressed like dinosaurs and scanned some objects, which was really fun and educational at the same time!

An Aztec head (Huehueteotl) we scanned at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

An Aztec head (Huehueteotl) we scanned at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.

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