by Soroush Zargarani, Spring 2015 Intern
In my early education as an anthropology student, archaeology had never succeeded to elicit interest within me. My initial intended concentration was to be linguistics. However, the emphasis placed on archaeology within the curriculum at VCU would soon prove to change that. I became interested in aspects of archaeology that involve curation, exhibition and public awareness. That and the addition to the fact that I am partial to hands on learning, an internship with the Virtual Curation Laboratory seemed to be right up my alley. I arrived for my first day with little in the way of expectation, though I do remember hoping to become familiar with the 3D printers. I learned quite a bit about 3D printing, the possible complications that may arise and how to resolve them. However, most important is what I learned regarding the importance of 3D printing within an educational context. I was lucky enough to accompany Dr. Means to a couple of institutions that were interested in using 3D technology in artifact curation.
Printed artifacts in several stages of development were exhibited to individuals within in the academic community. Like them I saw the potential that 3D replication has to impart something tangible to an educational or museum setting. It could now be possible for anybody to essentially hold an artifact rather than simply peer at it through a pane of glass. Back at the lab, I was encouraged by Dr. Means to acquaint myself with the 3D printers, and to experiment with its capabilities. On one such occasion, Dr. Means demonstrated how to print a multicolored artifact by changing the filament in mid print, after which, I decided to give it a try for myself. The results were…interesting to say the least, I feared that I got a little too overzealous with my efforts. The result was a striped projectile point that featured eight distinct colors. Luckily, people seemed to enjoy it. What I will take away from my time working at the Virtual Curation lab can all be encompassed in one word, potential. The various technologies that we used in the lab have an important role within public archaeology. They have great potential to reach a greater number people in more locations. Once limited by the fact that only one person can be in possession of an artifact at a time, 3D scanning and printing effectively make the possibilities limitless.