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VCU Archaeology

I Was Literally Surrounded by History

by Danielle Smith, Intern

My name is Danielle Smith and I am a senior majoring in Anthropology at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am mostly interested in Forensic Anthropology, but most of my experience has been in Archaeology. During the first semester of my freshman year I worked in the Archaeology Lab at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and for ten hours a week I re-bagged and re-tagged artifacts while I learned what happened behind the scenes of a museum (The Archaeology Lab was located in the McClung Museum). While a dusty basement filled wall-to-wall and top-to-bottom of human remains and other materials found at a variety of archaeological sites sounds unappealing to most people, I loved every bit of it because I was literally surrounded by history. The worst part of working in the Archaeology Lab was when they turned off the lights in that huge, dusty basement while you were working, trust me when those lights go out it is pitch black and watch out for ghosts! According to my colleagues they like to mess with the freshmen.  What I hope to learn during my internship in the Virtual Curation Laboratory is to learn how exhibits are done and to learn about the new technology in the archaeology field and how it affects the field today.

In between my ‘I want to be a vet stage’ and ‘I want to be a mechanic stage’ I wanted to be what I thought was archaeology. At the time I had an intense fascination with Ancient Egypt, including my favorite movie at the time, “The Mummy”. I thought that I was going to learn to read hieroglyphs, discover some ancient part of Egypt that nobody knew about and have the time of my life doing it. I very soon learned how wrong I was about what Archaeology really was. While I did not and still do not have aspirations of becoming an archaeologist I realize the importance of learning Archaeology to do Forensic Anthropology. Lab work is very important in both fields as well as field methods, though there are differences in the methods the idea is still the same; recovering evidence.

This semester in the Virtual Curation Laboratory has been so amazing! I have learned so much that I can apply to my future career as an (hopefully Forensic) Anthropologist. I have been able to work with some very wonderful people throughout this semester and I really broadened my horizons during this internship. I feel prepared for anything that comes my way, especially my next internship in the spring semester in 2014. I was able to learn how to put an exhibit together and what needed to happen to get it all done. I can honestly say that it was all worth it this semester.

Danielle Smith, foreground, learns how to edit a digital model from Rachael Hulvey.

Danielle Smith, foreground, learns how to edit a digital model from Rachael Hulvey.

My favorite thing to do in the lab is edit scans. Now I know that does not sound so exciting, when people hear archaeology they think “Indiana Jones” or “The Tomb Raider” so when people hear that I work in the Virtual Curation Laboratory they automatically think “lab rat!” So when I get to tell the people that I work with, my customers, my family and my peers that I work in a lab at school and we scan real artifacts from a variety of different places and then a 3D model of the artifact is downloaded onto the computer, but it is not exactly perfect so someone has to edit some things off and sometimes someone has to scan the artifact multiple times and then the models need to be fused together, and I really enjoy doing it. I enjoy it so much because you not only get to touch a real artifact from a place that you might or might not be familiar with; you get to learn about the site and what the artifact is, and then you get to put it all together and, at the end, you get to see the finished, plastic model of the real artifact. Basically, you get to touch the real thing, the scan while you are editing, and then you get to touch the finished project and it feels fantastic and it feels like you have accomplished something and have contributed to something bigger than yourself.

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