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VCU Archaeology

Portrait of An Artist: 3D Edition

by Bernard K. Means

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Self portrait of Gari Melcher

Friday, February 26, 2016 found me at the Gari Melchers Home & Studio at Belmont located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, accompanied by Laura Galke, who brought her photographic documentation skills for this visit.  Although we have lived in Fredericksburg for over seven years, this was our first time at Belmont.  The ice-cold wind dissuaded us from spending time walking Belmont’s sumptuous grounds, situated just above the Rappahannock River–the same river a young George Washington once threw rocks across.  It was just as well, for this was no idle visit.  Rather, we were here to meet with Michelle Crow-Dolby, the Education and Communications Manager for the Gari Melchers Home & Studio at Belmont.  Michelle had recently visited George Washington’s Ferry Farm, where she saw 3D printed artifact replicas being employed in a public archaeology activity by Laura and Laura informed her that I had both 3D scanned and 3D printed the objects. Laura encouraged Michelle to contact me, and I was certainly happy to bring my scanning equipment to Belmont.  I have long been interested in visiting, but it seems it is always easier to visit places that are far away than those that are local to my home or the Virtual Curation Laboratory.

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Michelle Crow-Dolby and Bernard K. Means examine a scan made using the Structure Scanner. Image courtesy of Laura J. Galke.

Our visit was a preliminary one to discuss what types of objects they might like scanned, and what steps would needed to be taken for this to happen. Because this was a preliminary visit, I focused my 3D scanning efforts on using the Virtual Curation Laboratory’s two portable scanners: the Sense 3D scanner and the Structure scanner. Both are lower in resolution than the NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner that we use for most artifacts (and which was ready in the car, just in case), but are certainly easier to handle.  The Structure scanner we use attached to an iPad Mini 4 and the Sense 3D scanner is tethered by a USB cord to our Surface 3 computer.  The portability of these two scanners and their small size was particularly needed on this Friday as visitation to Belmont was quite steady.  I’ll arrange to come on a day when Belmont is closed to the public to operate the NextEngine 3D scanner.

One of the items I 3D scanned was a beautiful cigar store Indian carved by Gari Melcher’s father.  I was only able to get a partial scan because the cigar store Indian was too close to the wall, and we did not want to move it without the aid of the curator–and something best done when Belmont is closed.

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Nonetheless, a decent scan of the cigar store Indian was obtained.  Distortion beyond the area scanned makes the raw 3D data file look artistic in its own light.

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I also 3D scanned a bas relief of Gari Melcher, his artist’s palette, and some of his paintings.  The latter won’t look like much 3D printed on our lab’s 3D printers, but do make nice animations. And, of course, when we get a full-color 3D printer, we can then print the paintings.

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I certainly look forward to a return visit to Belmont, and helping contribute in a small way to making more people aware of Gari Melcher’s work and home. And, making his work more accessible to other audiences, such as the visually impaired–an aim shared by Michelle.

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  1. Pingback: Portrait of An Artist: 3D Edition | Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont's Blog - March 5, 2016

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