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VCU Archaeology

What Can 3D Do for You?

by Bernard K. Means

Over last week, I was at three different venues where I talked and interacted with people regarding the 3D printed past. At the invitation of Laura Hansen of the Smithsonian Affiliations program, I, along with Dr. Elizabeth Moore of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH), presented and conducted a workshop at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. entitled “The Virtues of Virtual Curation: What Can 3D Do For You?” The attendees were from museums that are members of the Smithsonian Affiliations program. Laura asked me originally to conduct the workshop because I did two special research trips funded by the Smithsonian Affiliations program to two affiliates: the Western Science Center in Hemet, California, as detailed here; and, to the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, as considered here.  I discussed lessons learned, and tips and tricks I provided at both research trips. Both research trips were quite successful and led the two museums to raise funds to create their own 3D scanning and 3D printing labs in the near future. Both museums see 3D as the path to follow to create materials for exhibits and to share in science outreach programs.

Means and Moore 2017 smithsonian affiliations picture

When Laura first asked me to develop this workshop, I knew right away that I wanted to involve Dr. Moore and VMNH. The Virtual Curation Laboratory has been closely allied with VMNH since the laboratory was founded in 2011, particularly drawing on their rich archaeological and zooarchaeological collections to create an extensive virtual 3D archive that can be accessed by researchers and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) students for their own projects. In this case, Dr. Moore focused on the good (it’s tactile!!) and the bad (people steal things!!!) aspects of an archaeology exhibit called Exploring Virginia. She created this exhibit with the aid of the Virtual Curation Laboratory and VCU students interning in my lab or who took the inaugural Visualizing and Exhibiting Anthropology course I taught in Spring 2015. The workshop presentation part went well, but we definitely could have used more time for the hands-on component. I include the slides and the handout from our presentation below.

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On Wednesday, October 4, 2017, I met briefly at the Library of Congress with employees of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). This visit was arranged by the NLS’s Yvonne French to discuss an upcoming panel for National Disability Month to be held on October 23 (details to follow). Yvonne also recently wrote an article about the Virtual Curation Laboratory’s work with the visually impaired.

carter rawson image of Judy Dixon, Tamara Rorie and Yvonne French review 3D samples with Bernard Means of VCU.

Yvonne French, Tamara Rorie, and Judy Dixon review 3D printed replicas with Bernard K. Means of VCU (Image courtesy of Carter Rawson).

Finally, on Saturday, October 7, I participated in the RVA Makerfest, which was held at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond. I was assisted for much of the day by VCU student Adam Blakemore and for all afternoon by VCU student Jensen Wainwright. The replicas of megafauna I had with me were particularly popular with visitors, as was a replica of a 17th-century head scratcher.

This was a very worthwhile event and I plan to participate again next year.  I had numerous conversations with K-12 teachers who are looking to incorporate 3D into what they do and to make 3D printers do more than print iPhone cases…….

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