Virtual Collaboration: Selden3D, VCL, and the Middlebrook Collection

I recently teamed up with the Virtual Curation Laboratory (VCL) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU)  for a very unique endeavor.  Over the holiday break, I had the opportunity to collect 3D scans of a private collection of Caddo vessels curated in Dr. Tom Middlebrook’s (CRHR Research Fellow) repository in Nacogdoches, Texas. During the post-processing process, I was put in touch with Dr. Bernard K. Means, the Director of the VCL. Throughout the subsequent month, these two discussed technique, theory, data manipulation, shared data, and hatched a plan–which may be a first–to exhibit the Middlebrook Collection at VCU.

So what makes this endeavor is so unique? I see these kinds of displays at museums and other institutions all the time.

Well, that’s a great question.

This story begins in Middlebrook’s personal archaeology laboratory, which is–by all standards–cutting edge. I collected the 3D scan data in December, and shared the 3D scans with Means (with Middlebrook’s permission, of course), who then guided his interns through the process of animating the scan data for the CRHR:ARCHAEOLOGY digital repository.

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Carson Collier creating a digital animation of one of the Middlebrook vessels (below)

Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

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Ms. Collier’s 3D animation of one of Middlebrook’s vessels

Animation courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory 

And if you look to the right of Ms. Collier in the above image, there is a 3D printer, which Ms. Ashley McCuistion used to print the vessel (same vessel as above – but scaled down).

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Ms. McCuistion cleaning the 3D printed vessel

Image courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

Which brings us to the grand idea; an exhibition of prehistoric Caddo works of art–created purely through an exchange of digital information–of 3D-printed Caddo ceramics on the VCU campus (in numerous venues, if we’re lucky). Means’ students/interns may also paint the 3D-printed vessels to resemble the colors present on the physical specimens.

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2D color screenshot of the 3D animated/printed vessel above

Image appears courtesy of Dr. Tom Middlebrook

It is our hope that this exhibit will raise awareness of the Caddo people, their artifacts, and their artwork, as well as the ways in which this information might be preserved and made available to future generations of Caddo artists (see Jeri Redcorn and Chase Earles for a few examples) and others like them (see also Phil Cross) that are helping to keep these valuable cultural traditions alive.

Acknowledgments

I want to thank Dr. Tom Middlebrook for the necessary permissions to make this project possible, and the VCL (Ms. Collier, Ms. McCuistion and colleagues – as well as Dr. Bernard K. Means) for their ingenuity, patience, and guidance throughout this process.

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Written by zselden

Selden (PhD, Texas A&M University, 2013) is a US Marine Corps veteran, cyclist, kayaker, backpacker, hiker, climber, fisherman and general all-around outdoor enthusiast. His research is focused at the confluence of archaeological methods and digital technology, and he is particularly interested in the application of 3D technologies to archaeological problems, geometric morphometrics, network analyses, predictive modeling, archaeological theory, and archaeological science.