Last week, U.S. President Obama hosted the White House’s first Maker Faire (next year, it will apparently be a Maker Fair) to celebrate a nation of makers, as detailed here. Much of the fair (or faire) emphasized the 3D printing of items that individuals created in a variety of forms–with most objects deriving from their creator(s) imaginations, e.g. born digital. In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, most of the items that we scan are also made, but were made by individuals laboring in the past–some by women and men working thousands of years ago to within the last few decades. We do make, in the Virtual Curation Laboratory, in the sense that we print replicas of the digital models that we create through our artifact scanning process.
The printed historical objects that we “make” are making a difference in the preservation and presentation of the past. My undergraduate Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) archaeology field school students witnessed the use of some printed historical objects while at Historic Jamestowne on a field trip two weeks ago. Jamestown’s Jeff Aronowitz kindly gave us a tour of the site, and used as part of his tour a replica of an ivory compass that was scanned by the Virtual Curation Laboratory (VCL) in the Jamestown Rediscovery lab, painted by now VCU alumnus Mariana Zechini in the VCL, and then returned as a replica to Historic Jamestown for use in public programs–a process detailed in this video by Jamestown’s Danny Schmidt.
Earlier in the same day that we toured Jamestown, we also visited with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation archaeologist Meredith Poole. A planned site tour had to be cancelled due to rains of almost Biblical proportions but we did have an opportunity to present Meredith with painted plastic replicas of 17th and 18th century pipes that we had scanned on an earlier visit, enabling her to use them in future public programs. These had been scanned at her request for this purpose.
The pipes had been printed the day before in the VCL and painted by current VCU student Becki Bowman that same day.
Of course, all of the VCU archaeology field school students had already seen plastic replicas used in public programs at George Washington’s Ferry Farm–numerous objects made in the 18th century, associated with George Washington and his family, as well as artifact replicas dating back to 10,000 years ago, are used to teach visitors coming daily to the public dig of which they are part (for 4.5 short weeks).
In the coming month, we will use our painted and unpainted plastic replicas at a celebration of July 4th at Ferry Farm, and as part of Day of Archaeology event sponsored by Archaeology in the Community.