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VCU Archaeology

Painting pieces to look real isn’t just about the aesthetic, but about enticing curiosity in people

by Lucia Aguilar, Intern

Working in the Virtual Curation Lab is always a great opportunity for me. It’s the most hands on experience with new technology being utilized by many different academic fields like archaeology. There is also a strong focus on education, not only with us interns, but also educating the public and kids about what archaeology is about and what can be done with 3D scanning and printing. I’m always learning more about local and regional history through my time in the lab as well as learning about new ways to reach out to people about this new knowledge. It’s never the same thing week to week. I have had to opportunity to work with printed artifacts that come from diverse regions of the world, from India to Costa Rica to Virginia. I never would have had these opportunities if not for the time got to work in the lab. I spent a great deal of time painting many of the printed copies to look like their originals and throughout my time in the lab I have realized there is great value in painting these printed artifacts.

Colonoware vessel fragment.

Colonoware vessel fragment.

Many artifacts printed in the lab have been painted by many different students over the years and included in a variety of important educational projects. I know the last time I interned I spent a great deal of time painting artifacts from Jamestown for Jamestown that were used as educational tools for groups of kids visiting and learning about the historical site. Getting kids to pay attention and to care about history or archaeology can be tough, but when you can hand them something to handle that looks real it at least it grabs their attention. I know that the museum course taught in a previous semester utilized printed artifacts in an exhibit that was put together for the Virginia Museum of Natural History, which I’m sure has become a great way to get museum guests to interact with the history they have stored there.

Painting a 3D printed peanut that dates to 1890.

Painting a 3D printed peanut that dates to 1890.

Painting pieces to look real isn’t just about the aesthetic, but about enticing curiosity in people. Getting strangers, grownups and kids alike, to ask “what is that?” is exciting. Getting people ask about why we do what we do in the lab is always a question we want to hear. Interning in the lab has offered me a variety of opportunities to go to conferences and interact with professionals and it is fascinating how excited they get to touch and handle the printed artifacts, especially when they initially might not be sure if the artifact is real or not till they touch it. This had led me to become more curious about the value of painting printed artifact copies to look real. Even though I will not be in the lab as much next semester I would like to pursue this even more to better understand the impact of visual and tangible effect these imitation artifacts have on get people to get interested and excited about archaeology and history.

aguilar IMG_0207


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