by Bernard K. Means
When I wrote this as a draft, I was sitting in the archaeology laboratory at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. At the behest of Linda Powell, Director of Interpretation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, I 3D scanned a number of items recovered from the “House for Families.” The “House for Families” housed the enslaved workers at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. During the course of the day,I 3D scanned a copper alloy strap buckle, a raccoon baculum that was incised so it could be suspended, a bone utensil handle, and a white salt-glazed tea cup. I finished out the day 3D scanning a shoe buckle frame.
Tomorrow, I’ll take the digital files to the Virtual Curation Laboratory and my summer interns will work to edit them so that we can 3D print them, paint them, and make them available for use in public programs. All of the objects are too rare and fragile to pass around to school children and other individuals. Additionally, all are going to be included in a forthcoming exhibit on the enslaved laborers at George Washington’s Mount Vernon entitled “Lives Bound Together.” These replicas can also link the public programs to the exhibited objects safely behind their protecting exhibit cases.
During an earlier visit, I borrowed some of the educational replicas to 3D scan so that extra copies can be made for public programs at Mount Vernon, including replicas of the key to the Bastille that was given to George Washington by Lafayette, an architectural detail from the Mount Vernon mansion itself, and George Washington’s dentures.
I also took a moment to drop off at The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington some 3D printed replicas of busts that I 3D scanned two weeks ago in their main reading room. This scanning effort was challenging as the busts are over 10 feet from the ground. I used a step ladder for this scanning effort, using a Structure Sensor scanner, but was unable to get high enough to get the back of the busts. I did try a taller ladder, but my perch on this–at least while trying to scan–was too unsteady to safely scan. The staff at the Washington Library will use these 3D printed replicas in their own public programs when they talk about their work.
The Virtual Curation Laboratory values the partnerships that it has with cultural heritage places–places that matter–such as Mount Vernon and helping them tell their stories about the past, especially through the use of 3D scanning and 3D printing.