I did not think much about the digital when I came to MSU. I had a personal website that I was proud of and I knew I was interested in photogrammetry as a tool to document archaeological finds. Little did I know that my interest in photogrammetry would lead me to where I am today.
During the first year of my Ph.D. program, I learned the process behind photogrammetry and was able to utilize the skill in the MSU Bioarchaeology Lab. During the summer of 2022, I traveled to Belize with Jack Biggs and our advisor, Dr. Gabe Wrobel, to document some of the artifacts that were housed in the Institute of Archaeology; these were then transformed into 3D models that are now housed on Sketchfab for the general public to see. Then I utilized these skills in the third year of my research assistantship, where I documented artifacts from the Kooskia Japanese internment camp for the Internment Archaeology Digital Archive (IADA) with Drs. Ethan Watrall and Stacey Camp; you’ll be able to see these models on a website that will be launched sometime in the spring. Through these experiences, I had the opportunity to learn more about the various digital tools and methods that are used by archaeologists to document artifacts. This piqued my interest in all of how the digital realm can be utilized by archaeologists. Thus, I applied for the CHI Fellowship, and here I am!
Now in my fourth year, I am engaged in not only CHI but also in the Lab for Education and the Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR). This space has allowed me to not only learn new skills and methods but has allowed me to learn how to teach these methods to undergraduate and graduate students. Teaching the material forced me to know the skills and methods extremely well (looking at you, GitHub), and I had to learn how to teach these same skills to various groups of people (anywhere from one-on-one to 200+ people). As a person who wants to become a professor, this has been an experience that I highly value, especially because I can get feedback from professors and colleagues about how I could improve my teaching.
With that said, I still have a lot to learn. And that is evident as I work on my CHI project. I discussed my project briefly in my previous blog focusing on my project vision; I am making a digital cultural heritage mobile website that will highlight Marco Gonzalez, Ambergris Caye, Belize. Artifacts from across Mesoamerica have been found at the site (for example, a new paper by Simmons and colleagues (2023) indicates that the obsidian found at the site is from nine separate obsidian sources across the region!) and I will be highlighting this extensive trade and where the artifacts were found at the site. I have drawn out a wireframe of the website to help solidify the ideas behind what the project will look like, which has helped a lot in the following steps that I have taken. I have also found a domain name that I will be buying (belizemgap.com), but am waiting for the paperwork to go through the university before I can officially buy it. I have begun the code for the website through GitHub pages, using the MobileFirst design as my guideline since my project will be something that people can utilize on-site to guide them through what archaeologists have found and where. The original plan was to print QR codes for this website and have them posted around Marco Gonzalez, but after discussing potential issues regarding weather and wear with Ethan, I will be 3D printing the QR codes. By 3D printing the QR codes, there should be a lower likelihood of the weather destroying it.
Stay tuned to learn more about my project and the process leading to its dissemination!
Simmons, S.E. et al. (2023). Recent pXRF Analysis of Obsidian from Marco Gonzalez, Ambergris Caye, Belize. Mexicon, 45:65-74.