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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.