From Mount Vernon to the MAAC

It’s been a busy few months since my last post, as I’ve been working hard with the Virtual Curation Laboratory at VCU, traveling to several events and meetings, and preparing for my first archaeological conference!

Mount Vernon in November

Mount Vernon in November

In November, I made my way up to Mount Vernon to attend a Small Finds workgroup, which featured talks by several archaeologists concerning jewelry and other fashion accessories. Dr. Means spoke about 3D scanning and later everyone shared artifacts from their respective sites and facilities.  We shared some plastic replicas made by the Virtual Curation Laboratory of items such as a jeweler’s mold from Jamestown and a bird radius which was being carved into bone beads from Pennsylvania. We also did some scanning while we were there, and got a few good images of a raccoon baculum which was probably hung by a string or worn as a necklace and a rather beautiful fan blade with a design etched into it. After the meeting I took a tour of the site, which was absolutely stunning when surrounded by the radiant fall colors.

In December, the Virtual Curation Laboratory was approached with an exciting offer to scan a few artifacts and create digital models for an article that would be featured on the New York Times website. The article examined 21 objects associated with the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, and was written as part of the events that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the conflict. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to scan and photograph these artifacts, which included a tin cup, an elaborate pipe, a William’s Cleaner bullet that had a ramrod impression on the top, and a pipe stem that had the name “Peter Dorni” on it. Each of these artifacts had a story, and represented a very specific and shadowy moment in our country’s history.

Digital model of the William's Cleaner bullet (click for animation!)

Digital model of the William’s Cleaner bullet (click for animation!)

I managed to process the digital files and make animations of the artifacts within a couple of days, as our deadline was very short. Unfortunately, the animations did not make it into the article after all, but a few of the photographs that Dr. Means and I took did, including one with my fingers holding the William’s Cleaner bullet! I loved working with these artifacts, and they really helped me realize a deep passion that I have developed for conflict or battlefield archaeology. You can read the New York Times article here:, and a blog about our efforts that was written by Dr. Means here:

A display of prehistoric artifacts at the State Museum of Pennsylvania

A display of prehistoric artifacts at the State Museum of Pennsylvania

About a week later, Dr. Means, Crystal and I all had the pleasure of traveling to the State Museum of Pennsylvania, which is a spectacular facility with a huge collection of prehistoric and historic artifacts from throughout the state, many of which they have been kind enough to loan us. I was incredibly impressed by their collections and by the museum itself, which was beautifully organized and exhibited a great deal of respect to the artifacts they displayed, the history those artifacts represented, and the archaeology that lead to their recovery. Janet Johnson, Curator of Archaeology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, was extremely kind and helpful, showing us around the facility and finding new artifacts for us to scan. I am very grateful to have had the chance to work with her while we were there!

In January we attended a second Small Finds workgroup at the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond, VA that focused on smoking pipes. This time we did not bring our scanner, but the team – which included Dr. Means, myself and fellow students Courtney, Allen and Mariana – did present a large assortment of plastic replicas that we have printed. I wrote a blog about this event for the official VCL website, which can be read at:

Me, taking the new iPad tour of Ferry Farm

Me, taking the new iPad tour of Ferry Farm

In February I spent another day at Ferry Farm with Allen, Rachael, Crystal, and Dr. Means. Crystal scanned some African American artifacts for a project she was working on, and we all got to take the new iPad tour of the site! This is an exciting new development at Ferry Farm, which allows visitors to explore the site with a guided tour through George Washington’s boyhood home, featuring an interactive map, videos of archaeologists and historians who talk about the site, and photographs of various artifacts and the people who once owned them. I think this tour is a wonderful way for guests to explore Ferry Farm, and I highly recommend it to anyone who may be planning a visit!  After taking the tour, we all headed inside and attended our first Council of Virginia Archaeologists meeting, which was a very exciting and sometimes heated event! I really enjoy being involved in affairs like this, especially when it means that I get to interact with professionals in my field. I feel I have grown a lot since my time as a field school student at Ferry Farm almost a year ago, and having the opportunity to attend these meetings really helps to keep me moving forward in my education and toward my future career.

Our latest journey with the Virtual Curation Laboratory was to Montpelier, which you can read about in my blog post here:

Otherwise, my focus for the past couple of months has been primarily on conducting research and writing a paper to present at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference this year. Today was the first day of the conference, and thus far it has been an exhilarating experience. I will be presenting my paper tomorrow, which is about 3D scanning and its applications in education and public outreach. I will admit I am a bit nervous, but incredibly excited and happy to be here! I will include more details about my paper and the research that went into it in my next post, but for now I must rest and prepare for my first professional presentation!

VCL members Courtney Bowles, Dr. Bernard K. Means, Crystal Castleberry, Jamie Pham, and Mariana Zechini at the MAAC

VCL members Courtney Bowles, Dr. Bernard K. Means, Crystal Castleberry, Jamie Pham, and Mariana Zechini at the MAAC


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