by Bernard K. Means
Today, November 26, 2015, is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., and the Virtual Curation Laboratory has much for which to be thankful. First, we have a great and wonderful crew of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students and alumnae who work in the lab and keep things operating and interesting. Second, we have the opportunity to work on preserving and sharing the world’s cultural heritage with partners literally from across the globe.
In the last blog entry, I wrote about my 3D scanning of Egyptian-themed architecture in Las Vegas. When I left Las Vegas, I arrived at my home at 2 a.m., only to turn around the next day for a Virginia Association of Museums workshop at Jamestown entitled “Archaeology in Action.” I was invited by Jamestown Rediscovery‘s Jeff Aronowitz to talk about the Virtual Curation Laboratory’s partnership with members of the heritage preservation community in Virginia. Jeff and I talked and demonstrated about Using Tech to Bring the Past to Life. Participants in the workshop were interested not only in the technology Jeff and I employ in our respective efforts, but also in the potential for object-based learning through 3D scanned artifacts from Jamestown and other sites across the state.
The next day, at VCU, I gave a related talk: Integrating Analysis of (Virtual) Material Culture into the Classroom as part of the “Teaching in the Humanities: Integrating Analysis of Material Culture into the Classroom” workshop in VCU’s Humanities Research Center. Two days later, after a joint presentation with Jeff Aronowitz on 3D technology and archaeology (entitled Visualizing Jamestown’s Artifacts through 3D Scanning and Printing) at the Jamestown Conference, held in Colonial Williamsburg, I hopped on an airplane at the Richmond International Airport to travel to New Orleans and the National Council for Social Studies Conference. There, I joined with Shirley Gazsi of AntiquityNow to present the Slavery Project: A Historical Depiction Using Minecraft and 3D Printing on November 13. Peter Albert of The Hun School provided a video for the presentation about the use of Minecraft for teaching slavery. Shirley talked about the development of curricula for the Slavery Project, and I focused on objects associated with enslaved and free African Americans from largely antebellum contexts in Virginia, including Jamestown, George Washington’s Ferry Farm, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, James Madison’s Montpelier, and the National Park Service’s Manassas National Battlefield Park (MNBP). The well-attended session certainly sparked the interests of the educators who attended, some of whom commented on the potential for object-based learning through 3D printed artifacts. Some of the objects that I highlighted will soon be available for viewing and downloading from the Virtual Curation Laboratory’s Sketchfab site, including the quartz projectile point from a free African American pre-Civil War cache at MNBP (but more on that next week).
A highpoint of the trip to New Orleans was our November 14 tour of the Whitney Plantation by Dr. Ibrahima Seck, their director of education. This was a powerful place to consider the plight of the enslaved, and the Whitney Plantation is particularly strong on highlighting the impact of enslavement on children, with painted statues in many of the buildings and lists of names on commemorative walls. I was particularly struck by the sculpture of an angel carrying a dead child to Heaven.
I returned to Virginia on November 15, and then to the Virtual Curation Laboratory on November 16, where I met Dr. Vinod Nautiyal, professor of archaeology at HNB Garhwal University in Srinagar (Garhwal) in Uttarakhand, India. I had visited Dr. Nautiyal, his team, and his students in August 2015 to discuss 3D scanning of artifacts in their university’s archaeology museum, and the sharing of digital files with my students at VCU. My trip and his visit were both funded by VCU’s Global Education Office as part of their Global Classroom Initiative. Dr. Nautiyal was here to foster the connections between our respective universities, and to discuss how best to implement our exchange of ideas, information, and digital models across the world.
The Virtual Curation Laboratory was able to present Dr. Nautiyal with 3D printed replicas of some objects that had been digitally sent to the Virtual Curation Laboratory by Mohan Naithani from the Archaeology Computing Laboratory at HNB Garhwal University. A highpoint of Dr. Nautiyal’s time with the Virtual Curation Laboratory was a visit to the Jamestown Rediscovery Archaeology Laboratory on November 18.
This was a particularly fruitful trip for our Virtual Global Classroom initiative, as we were able to discuss ways of implementing a virtual HNB Garhwal University archaeology museum with Jeff Aronowitz.
We were very fortunate to have Dr. Nautiyal to speak at VCU on November 19, at a well-attended lecture (especially given how close we were to Thanksgiving. Dr. Nautiyal discussed his research on Himalayan archaeology in a lecture entitled “Prehistoric Burials, Metallurgy, and Trade in the Indian Trans-Himalayas: New Archaeological Evidence.”
On the last day of Dr. Nautiyal’s visit, the Virtual Curation Laboratory participated in an event at the Virginia War Memorial, their 2nd annual miniatures show. Here, we demonstrated 3D scanning technology with a World War I-era artillery shell fuse, and also presented some of the 3D scanned and 3D printed artifacts created over the years in the Virtual Curation Laboratory.
A miniatures show is certainly a non-traditional outreach event for archaeologists, but allows us to reach people who might not attended archaeology festivals. And, one never knows what opportunities might arise at such an event. Last year, the Virtual Curation Laboratory 3D scanned World War II veteran and POW survivor Russell Scott, and his 3D printed self now graces a replica of the airplane he escaped from during that war in the Virginia War Memorial’s great hall. The Virtual Curation Laboratory is certainly thankful that we could help tell Russell’s story, which was featured on a recent episode of Virginia Currents.