Public outreach and engagement is an essential part of archaeological research. For the past year and a half, I have served as the Campus Archaeologist for the Michigan State University Campus Archaeology Program (CAP). One of the projects that the Campus Archaeology Program has focused on during my tenure is researching and implementing new outreach strategies. A new strategy that we have initiated at our outreach events is the incorporation of 3D models and 3D prints.
To accomplish this goal, former CAP graduate fellow, Jack Biggs, created over 35 3D models of artifacts that have been found on Michigan State University’s campus! To display these models, we bring several tablets to our outreach events, each of which are pre-loaded with a variety of 3D models. At each event, we also bring the physical artifacts as well, so that visitors can see both the real object and interact with its 3D representation.
Following this same mission, we have taken the models of the artifacts and begun to create 3D prints of them. This allows visitors to physically handle the objects in a way that gives them a tactile sensation (more than turning a virtual model on a tablet) and assists in making connections to the past. These three methods of presenting artifacts create more ways that people can interact with the past, and also help to make archaeology accessible to a wider audience, including those with visual impairments.
This past spring, CAP also included 3D prints of artifacts in our archaeological screening activity for children attending the Michigan State University Science Fest Expo Day. This allowed visitors to discover artifacts, interpret them in the context of each other, and tell us what type of site from which they think the artifacts came. You can read more about this use of 3D models in a blog written for the Campus Archaeology Program.
From the (informal) feedback received about the use of the 3D models and prints in our outreach activities, it appears that it has been highly successful. We are going to continue to make additional 3D models and prints to expand the types of artifacts that CAP brings to events.