My 3D artifact Odyssey: Introduction to MSU LEADR

Written by: Blair Zaid

Primary Source: Campus Archaeology Program

Last semester I began a quest to create 3D renditions of some of our artifacts and display them ever so eloquently on the CAP website. As mentioned in my previous posts, I used 123D Catch, a free photogrammetry application that can be used right on your smartphone. My first couple attempts were mildly successful but for some reason, my last several attempts at creating 3D images were a #fail. So I decided to investigate the bountiful resources that MSU has to offer and everyone pointed me to LEADR, or the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research.

LEADR, located on the first floor of Old Horticulture , is a recent addition to campus and seeks to help students create digital and web based products for their research. With a long list of equipment, personnel, and resources, this is the perfect place to design innovative and dynamic elements for digital representations of your work.   LEADR is focused on the fields that are typically slow to develop digitally competency such as History and Anthropology.  LEADR then, isn’t just focused on the product, but helping you learn the technology as well as the significance of digital humanities. So someone like me can go in there with my vision of the final product and they can teach me how to achieve it

So, last week I took my less-than-stellar 3D renditions to LEADR and they helped me develop a plan to construct relevant 3D models that can be viewed on the CAP website. Their first piece of advice was to re-scan the artifacts with their lab equipment. They suggested that while 123D Catch is pretty practical and useful, it may not be able to obtain the detail that I am looking for. Also, the editing available through 123D Catch may be a bit clunky for my novice hands and that LEADR software was a bit more user friendly.

Another feature of LEADR is that some of their equipment is available for checkout! I am particularly interested in the hand held 3D scanner that will allow me to scan larger objects in the CAP lab. This hopefully will produce better quality images than the ones I took with my smartphone.

Lastly, one of the best features of LEADR is that they actually print 3D renditions at low or no cost to students! Now Kate and I plan to print 3D renditions of our projectile points for me to take to our UMASS Cultural Landscapes and Digital Values conference presentation. This will make a great addition to our discussion on pre-historic land use and cultural heritage on campus.

Well, hopefully this short post informed you of yet another resource on campus as well as another way to incorporate digital archaeology and now 3D printing into your work. I can’t wait to post about the next installment on this Odyssey of 3D images and archaeological research!

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Blair Zaid
Blair (Starnes) Zaid is a doctoral student in both African American and African Studies and Anthropology here at MSU. Her research focuses on the African Diaspora expansion of the Kongo Kingdom of 15th century west central Africa. Her interests include historic archaeology, community engagement, increasing diversity in archaeology, and raising a toddler. This will be Blair’s third year as a CAP fellow and like her previous project of creating a type collection for CAP, her research this year will continue to revolve around the CAP artifact collections.