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VCU Archaeology

Innovative Technology and Relevant Experience Outside the Classroom

by Zoë Rahsman, Spring 2015 Intern

Since the beginning of my Anthropological studies, I have been drawn to learning more about Archaeology.  In addition, as an Anthropology student here at Virginia Commonwealth University, I am constantly encouraged to pursue opportunities that allow me to gain revant experience outside of the classroom setting.  This semester, I was given the opportunity to be an intern in the Virtual Curation Laboratory under the faculty advisement of Dr. Bernard Means.  Thus, the chance to learn about the innovative technology in archaeology, while also gaining hands on experience with artifacts, piqued my interest.

As a student of Dr. Means, I am used to seeing examples of the work created in the Virtual Curation Laboratory during his lectures.  He will regularly bring in 3D printed plastic artifacts and display 3D animations of artifacts on his lecture slides.  As an intern this semester, I was initially interested in learning more about the process of creating these visual and tactile educational tools.  My goals were to learn how to use the various technologies that were present in the lab to create and learn from these models.

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Throughout the semester, I learned how to digitally scan and edit artifacts using the NextEngine ScanStudio scanner and software.  I have additionally worked with and received tutorials on creating digital animations and digitally altering 3D models.  Early on, I became fascinated with the methods behind digitally altering 3D models.  I worked closely with Dr. Means to create a functional model of a toy blimp artifact that dates to the 1920-40s.  The artifact itself was completely rusted when it was scanned.  Dr. Means and I worked on the concept design of how to create a 3D printed version of the blimp with working wheels.  The end product consisted of three individual pieces – two wheels and the body of the blimp – that were printed, connected by an axle (a nail), and made into a functional toy.  I enjoyed the brainstorming and hands on aspects of this project.  By returning the artifact to its original mobile functionality, I think that we were able to take the interactive nature of 3D printed artifacts one step further. (Additional information:  https://vcuarchaeology3d.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/playing-with-the-past-a-navy-blimp-pull-toy/)

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The lab is interesting in the fact that it draws the attention of many other students, faculty, and professionals in the field of archaeology.  At first glance, people are surprised by the cramped space that we call the lab.  As I worked there throughout the semester, on average about 8 hours per week, I was able to interact with many of the different visitors who were interested in learning more about what we do.  This wasn’t something that I originally expected from the internship, but I found that I enjoyed teaching others about the day-to-day work that is done in the lab.  This has since attracted me to the possibilities of pursuing public archaeology.

Photograph Credit

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