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VCU Archaeology

3D Printing Day and the Virtual Curation Laboratory at the National Council for Social Studies

by Bernard K. Means

Yesterday was the 3rd of December, which some celebrated as 3D printing day. I spent the day at the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS) annual conference, this time in Washington, D.C. My goal was to present with Shirley Gazsi of AntiquityNow on the importance of instilling knowledge of and recognizing the importance of cultural heritage. In our evening session, Shirley focused on a multi-tiered curriculum she is developing that is designed to foster awareness of cultural heritage on the middle and high school levels. I focused on how people could integrate 3D printing into teaching not only cultural heritage awareness, but also enhance their understanding of archaeology’s role in preserving and interpreting the past. Some lessons outlined by Shirley and myself could be translated into developing other skill sets, such as using mapping of a faux archaeological site created through 3D printed artifacts to teach geometry. I also brought up the collection of digital artifact analogues on our Sketchfab site (http://sketchfab.com/virtualcurationlab) of artifacts from enslaved American contexts, especially George Washington’s Mount Vernon. This tied us back to the Slavery Project that Shirley and I presented on at NCSS 2015 in New Orleans. One of the teachers that came up to us after the presentation noted that he had not thought of how 3D printing could help him, a social studies teacher, in his lessons. He thought 3D printing was just something for the more science-oriented teachers. This is actually a sentiment I have heard from other teachers in the past. He is now anxious to go back to his school and use their 3D printer to create replicas of historic artifacts to expanding his pedagogy.


3D printed replicas created in the Virtual Curation Laboratory and painted by Virginia Commonwealth University students.

During the day, as I did the day before, I spent time in the exhibits hall at the Archaeology Education Clearing House booth, which is a cooperative venture of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), the Society for Historical Archaeology, and the Archaeological Institute for America to promote archaeological education among educators. Project Archaeology was well represented as well. The booth was primarily staffed by Maureen Malloy of the SAA and Kevin Gidusko of the Florida Public Archaeology Network. Kevin and I both use 3D printed replicas in our public education endeavors, and I loaned the booth a set of 3D printed replicas of artifacts from all over the world. Teachers who stopped by were certainly very interested in these replicas, and I spoke to numerous teachers when I was at the booth.


Kevin Gidusko and Maureen Malloy at the Archaeology Education Clearinghouse discussing public archaeology.

Speaking of George Washington, one of the vendors in the Exhibits Hall was Madame Tussauds of Washington, D.C. who had along a life-sized figure of our first president. With their permission, I used my 3D Structure Scanner attached to my iPad Mini 4 to 3D scan George. One cannot have enough 3D scanned George Washingtons.


Taking a selfie with a wax George Washington.

I should say that the highlight of NCSS 2016 was the stirring speech by U.S. Representative John Lewis, a gifted orator and veteran of the Civil Right Rights movement. He was presenting on his acclaimed graphic novel series March, the third volume of which just came out. I have all three volumes and highly recommend them to all. His co-author on the graphic novel series, Andrew Aydin, spoke after John Lewis, and provided amusing anecdotes about the development of the graphic accounting of the Civil Rights Movement. But, he also gave chilling accounts of what it is like to be a Muslim American in today’s charged political atmosphere.


U.S. Representative John Lewis talking about the Civil Rights Movement and his graphic novel series March.

Speaking of the Civil Rights Movement, at NCSS 2015 in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to 3D scan Civil Rights Activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland.  This year I presented her with a 3D printed replica of herself.


Joan Trumpauer Mulholland with her 3D printed replica, both in her “arrested” pose.





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