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VCU Archaeology

With a base coat of unbleached titanium

Note that this blog post was completed by a Spring 2017 intern in the Virtual Curation Laboratory as part of the internship requirements.

By Kristen Egan

My name is Kristen; I am a graduating senior at Virginia Commonwealth University pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree in Anthropology. I started my Internship with the Virtual Curation lab in January of 2017.  Going into the internship I was a little bit intimidated about working with 3D printers and editing software. My experience with technology of this caliber is nonexistent. Throughout my time interning with Dr. Means I learned a little bit more about the 3D printers and how to edit the 3D models after the artifacts have been scanned but my major contribution to interning in the lab was painting the 3D printed replicas.  I started painting bones and using the step-by-step guides that Dr. Means provides for his new interns. I quickly learned the technique and was painting bones without the need of a guide and then eventually moved on to painting the 3D models to represent the actual artifacts. For example my first project was painting a dog skull and instead of painting the skull like bone from the guide I used the real one as a reference and was able to take the 3D replicated models to a new level.

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A line up of World War II saltshakers: 3D replica (Left), real salt shaker (middle), and another 3D replica (Right): an example of using the real artifact as a reference to paint the models.

These skills developed even more as Dr. Means gave me more and more 3D models to paint and replicate (paint wise) like the real one. I spent hours in the lab sitting at a table, headphones in, meticulously mixing paints and holding my brush up to various artifacts including a worn-down mastodon tooth, World War II doughboy figurines, Egyptian shabti statues, World War 1 buttons, salt shakers and an entrenching tool (my favorite item I have painted) and many more. With each new 3D replica I painted I would learn more and more about painting methods. I gained feedback from the individuals that would hold my painted replicas saying the detail was amazing or a little more would really make this item a bit more realistic.

My favorite 3D model that I painted was a World War I entrenching tool that was loaned to the Virtual Curation Lab by a private collector. The model was painted with a base coat of unbleached titanium and over the base coat I painted the entire model black. After the black painted dried I added in metallic painted details to make the model more like the real one.

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World War I entrenching tool (top) and the 3D replica (bottom) comparison to show the detail of the 3D painted model.

I even added in the rust that was inside the handle grip. The 3D World War I entrenching tool that I painted will soon reside in the Virginia War Memorial located in Richmond, Virginia. This was my primary responsibility in the Virtual Curation Lab for this semester: I was given a task to paint 3D models so they would be identical or very closely resemble the original object. Then the painted ones were either used for classroom, research or exhibit purposes. Other 3D models that I painted include Wig Hair curlers, which were found at George Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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Painted 3D models of wig hair curlers on display at George Washington’s boyhood home, Ferry Farm.

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