From the Attic to the Lab

On September 5, the Virtual Curation Laboratory at VCU was visited by Virginia Adams, a representative from the Fairfield Foundation in Gloucester, Virginia.  She brought us some artifacts that were found in the attic of the historic Ware Neck Store near Gloucester, hoping that we could scan them for the foundation.  The artifacts included part of a coat rack, some small cardboard cotton spool boxes, an old hat, bottles, and a large spool of hand-written receipts and paperwork dating back to the late 1800’s.  I was especially interested in the papers, as touching and reading the words that some stranger wrote on them over one hundred years ago gave me the odd sensation of being somewhat connected to that person.  I often have that feeling when handling artifacts, even when it comes to a one million year old hand axe, but something about handwriting makes everything seem even more personal!

Virginia Adams (left) and intern Victoria Garcia (right) watch as the coat rack is being scanned.

The scanning team that day consisted of myself, Dr. Means, Crystal Castleberry, Jamie Pham, and my good friend and old digging partner Victoria Garcia.  The first artifact we scanned was the coat rack, which was a bit difficult due to its size, but we managed to get a very good model of it!  We then scanned two of the cardboard boxes, which were very delicate and even shed a few pieces as we were mounting them onto the scanner.  This just emphasizes the value of 3D scanning, as these fragile artifacts may not last long, especially with continued handling.  If 3D models are made, then they can be preserved digitally and further studied without having to handle the original object.  Both boxes scanned beautifully as well, and after taking a short break for lunch we decided to attempt to scan the paperwork spool.

Crystal Castleberry holds the spool of papers in front of the scanner.

Our goal in scanning the spool was to create a record of what they looked like in their original condition, as the Fairfield Foundation is planning on removing the papers from the wire so that they can study each paper individually.  We were fairly certain that, due to the size and complexity of the object, we would not be able to scan it, but we decided to give it a shot anyway.  Jamie and Crystal each took turns holding the spool as still as possible while the lasers slowly panned across, but in the end it did not work.

Unfortunately, those were the only artifacts we had time to scan that day, but we had a great time doing it.  Virginia was very kind and we really appreciated her coming and sharing these artifacts with us!  I was able to edit some of the scans that we got from them this week and they look fantastic, so I hope to share them with everyone very soon!

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2 thoughts on “From the Attic to the Lab

    • I’ve always had a passion for anthropology, but I have been extremely fortunate in finding the right professors and being offered the right opportunities to make my dreams a reality. It is incredibly fulfilling and I am eternally grateful to those who have helped me get to this point so early in my career! Thank you so much for reading!

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