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VCU Archaeology

Hoodoo Jars, Cast Iron Grave Markers, and Sabertooth Cats

by Bernard K. Means

It’s been an interesting, busy, and diverse year. This blog’s title only refers to items that we’ve 3-D scanned during December 2017. Two of the items, a Hoodoo jar and the cast iron  grave marker I 3-D scanned just two days ago, December 29. Other items 3-D scanned this month, most from research trips out to the Western Science Center and the Las Vegas Natural History Museum include: the remains of various Ice Age mammals (oreodont, mammoth, mastodon, bison, horse, camel, short-legged rhinoceros, the aforementioned sabertooth cat), dinosaurs or other ancient creatures (triceratops, crocodile, ankylosaur, tyranosauroid, and a Cretaceous-era snail!), and even a modern sea lion skull from Baja California.

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Over the past year, we’ve 3-D scanned at and/or partnered with

  • American Civil War Museum
  • Anderson Gallery
  • Chippokes Plantation State Park
  • Clover Hill High School
  • Colonial  Williamsburg Foundation
  • Dovetail Cultural Resources Group
  • Fairfield Foundation
  • George Mason’s Gunston Hall
  • George Washington’s Ferry Farm
  • George Washington’s Mount Vernon
  • Germanna Archaeology
  • HNB Garhwal University
  • Holman Middle School
  • Isle of Wight County Museum
  • James Madison’s Montpelier
  • Las Vegas Natural History Museum
  • Library of Congress
  • Mariners’ Museum
  • Museum of the Albemarle
  • Museum of the Middle Appalachians
  • National Museum of Health and Medicine
  • RVA Makerfest
  • Smithsonian Affiliations
  • Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History
  • Stonewall Jackson Middle School
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
  • The Valentine
  • Veterans Curation Project
  • Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Encyclopedia Virginia
  • Virginia Historical Society
  • Virginia Museum of Natural History
  • Virginia War Memorial
  • Virginia World War I and II Commission
  • Western Science Center
  • Yukon Beringia Interpretative Center
  • Zorg, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel (not really, but I wanted a Z in here)

I traveled to four countries to 3-D scan (Canada, Cayman Islands, India, and the United Kingdom) and spoke on a panel at the Library of Congress about making heritage more accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Incidentally, 3-D printed replicas of a Mayan ceramic werejaguar on exhibit at the Library of Congress made their ways into the hands of the Librarian of Congress.


Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

I even gave a TED-style talk at TEDxYouth RVA about 3-D printing and heritage in November, which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/oqW345UaPcs.

The start and end of my year basically was at the same location: the Las Vegas Natural History Museum. In January 2017, I did a special project for the Smithsonian Affiliations office in Washington, D.C. at the museum to illustrate how 3-D scanning and 3-D printing could benefit this museum.  This excursion basically followed the successful template used in August 2016 at the Western Science Center in Hemet, California.  I was fortunate to talk about these two projects along with Dr. Elizabeth Moore of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, which is another Smithsonian Affiliate, at the Smithsonian Affiliations conference in October.

Why was I back at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum at the end of December 2017? And, why did this immediately follow four long but fantastically productive days back at the Western Science Center? Both museums have decided  to develop their own 3-D scanning and printing capabilities, as you can read about here: https://news.vcu.edu/article/With_help_of_VCU_expert_natural_history_museums_in_California

One of the major highlights of the year for the Virtual Curation Laboratory was my participation in the Valley of the Mastodons workshop and conference that took place at the Western Science Center in August 2017, as I detailed here: https://vcuarchaeology3d.wordpress.com/2017/08/12/science-ing-the-scientists-and-the-other-elephant-in-the-room-mastodons/. Doing science in such a public manner was energizing and inspiring.

The next year looks equally busy. In just a few short days, I’ll be presenting a paper at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual meeting in New Orleans entitled: “Touching the Past: Enhancing Accessibility for Richmond’s Visually Impaired Community and Others to Virginia’s Heritage through 3-D Printing.” After I return from New Orleans, I’ll be 3-D scanning items from the Frederick Douglas National Historic Site in anticipation of the bicentennial of his birth. At the end of January, it looks like I’ll spend time at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio, 3-D scanning a mummy. And, I’ll be returning to HNB Garhwal Museum later this year.

It looks as if 2018 may be as busy or busier than 2017.



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