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VCU Archaeology

3D Scanning & Printing at the “Dawn of Infamy: America Goes to War”

by Bernard K. Means

At the invitation of Rusty Nix from the Virginia Tourism Board, I found myself along with many others at the “Dawn of Infamy: America Goes to War” event on December 8, 2016 at the University of Richmond’s Robins Center. This event was designed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of America’s entry into World War II following the devastating Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

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For the Virtual Curation Laboratory’s part in this event, I set up a table with previously 3D scanned and 3D printed World War I and II materials, many 3D scanned from private collections (especially Rusty Nix and James Triesler), Clover Hill High School, and the Virginia War Memorial.  A highlight of our display was a poster created by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) student Brittany Blanchard about World War II veteran Russell Scott and his harrowing tale of being shot down over Italy and captured by the Germans. Brittany interviewed Russell recently about his war-time adventures, as detailed here.


3D scanning a Russian medal.

In addition to having materials on display, I also set up our NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner to 3D scan World War I and World War II medals made available by David J. Meredith. Mr. Meredith loaned the two medals shown below for scanning at the event, and loaned other medals for 3D scanning within the Virtual Curation Laboratory.


German World War I wound badge, equivalent to an American Purple Heart.


German World War II Medal for Combat on the Eastern Front.

I also completed one scan of a World War II German civil defense helmet at the event, and will borrow that to finish 3D scanning back in the laboratory itself.


World War II German Air Raid Helmet

Animations and even links to some 3D printed models can be found in the WWI and WWII 3D Scanning and Virtual Museum, which is found here. This on-line museum will be updated regularly as new World War I and World War II objects are 3D scanned.


Joe Keller holding a 3D printed version of Russell Scott.

The other 3D scanner I brought with me was the lower resolution Structure Scanner, which was mounted on my iPad Mini 4.  A similar 3D scanner was used to 3D scan Russell Scott, and I knew that an opportunity would arise for me to 3D scan a veteran, as there were hundreds of veterans who attended and who were individually acknowledged at this event. I was very fortunate to be introduced to Joe Keller, who’s service as a tank driver during World War II was being commemorated in a new mobile museum that debuted this very same day, the Virginia WWI and WWII Profiles of Honor Tour.


Digital model of Joe Keller.


A 3D printed replica of Joe Keller created the same day he was 3D scanned.

This mobile museum is designed to bring an interactive traveling exhibition to museums, libraries, and historic sites throughout Virginia. The mobile museum features a recreation of part of Joe Keller’s tank.


Joe Keller sitting in a reconstruction of his tank in the new mobile museum.

If you look at the ceiling of the mobile museum, you will see suspended a B-25 Mitchell Bomber. And, a closer look will show a 3D printed miniature replica of Russell Scott that sits on this plane’s tail. This scaled model of the World War II veteran was printed and painted earlier in the week to the scale of the plane and installed the morning of December 8. An earlier and larger version of the same scene is present at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond as presented here.


Russell Scott on the tail of a B-25 Mitchell bomber.

This event was sponsored by the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission. Subsequent programs include

  • 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I (April 2017)
  • 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway (June 2017)
  • 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (November 11, 2018)
  • 75th anniversary of D-Day Invasion (June 2019)

More information about these events can be found at VirginiaWorldWarI.org and VirginiaWorldWarII.org. The Virtual Curation Laboratory will be honored to participate in these events, as we were at the “Dawn of Infamy.”




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