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VCU Archaeology

We Print the Past (and Add a Coat of Paint)

by Bernard K. Means, Director

The Virtual Curation Laboratory focuses its efforts on creating digital models of artifacts from cultural heritage sites and museums to help preserve and share the past through outreach efforts.  Scores of these digital models are presented as colorful animations  at the Virtual Curation Museum.

Dog maxillae scanned at the Virginia Museum of Natural History.  From the Winslow site, an American Indian village in Maryland

Dog maxillae scanned at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. From the Winslow site, an American Indian village in Maryland

Yet, while we live in a world immersed in a sea of visual stimuli, many individuals still prefer to mediate their connection with the  past through more tangible means–and this is where 3D printing comes to play.

Winslow site dog maxillae printed in glow-in-the-dark plastic.

Winslow site dog maxillae printed in glow-in-the-dark plastic.

In the Virtual Curation Laboratory, we have found that printed plastic replicas of digital models are a relatively low cost and  effective tool for public outreach and education. This is especially true if they are painted to resemble the original item from which they were scanned. Fortunately, I have a very talented pool of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students who can make our artifictions look more closely like artifacts.

we print the past collage

Top row: John Bush, Rebecca Bowman, and Athena Beskinis.
Middle Row: Brenna Geraghty with a Munsee vessel replica she painted, followed by an iron-alloy cup she painted that is next to an unpainted replica.
Bottom right: Lucia Aguilar and Lauren Hogg craft artifact replicas.

Our printed and painted replicas have been featured at our own public outreach efforts, including mostly recently at the Archeological Society of Virginia (ASV) annual meeting this past October.

Kaitie Lyford and Ivana Adzic in the exhibit's space.

Kaitie Lyford and Ivana Adzic in the exhibit space at the ASV meeting.

Some of our partners in the cultural heritage community also use our printed and painted replicas, notably in Jamestown Rediscovery‘s already robust public interpretation program. MakerBot apparently touts the educational benefits of their 3D printers using a video created by Danny Schmidt of Jamestown Rediscovery that covers our creating a printed and painted replica of an ivory compass from Jamtestown.

Replica artifacts from Jamestown.  Image courtesy of Jeff Aronowitz.

Multiple copies of replica artifacts from Jamestown. Image courtesy of Jeff Aronowitz.

Just this past week, we have worked to produce a set of replica Civil War artifacts for use by Shirley Gazsi, director of AntiquityNOW, who will show them to teachers at the National Conference for the Social Studies meeting in Boston later this month.

Closeup of Brenna Geraghty painting a smoking pipe from Civil War Union site called "Camp Misery"

Closeup of Brenna Geraghty painting a smoking pipe from Civil War Union site called “Camp Misery”

In the coming Spring 2015 semester, I will teach a Visualizing and Exhibiting Anthropology course at VCU. We will rely heavily on printed and painted plastic replicas to create temporary exhibits for our own use and for our partners in the cultural heritage community who have so freely opened their collections to our virtual curation efforts.

 

 

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “We Print the Past (and Add a Coat of Paint)

  1. Oh man! These look great–especially the cup!

    Posted by Crystal Castleberry | November 2, 2014, 6:44 am

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  1. Pingback: Around the Archaeology Blog-o-sphere Digest #9 | Doug's Archaeology - November 2, 2014

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