Changing Spaces

Collections with new plexi-glass doors

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Updating spaces at the Peabody is like playing with a giant sliding puzzle. In order to rearrange one room, you have to make space in another for everything that will be displaced. We wrestled with this puzzle as we recently updated two major spaces at the museum – our basement work room and our main exhibit gallery.

The basement work room is the center of most of the collections work at the Peabody. It is where work duty students, volunteers, and collections staff spends most of their time. And, until recently, it was home to several staff work spaces too. But it was time to refresh the space and make room to spread out the collection as we transfer artifacts from the old wooden drawer to new archival boxes.

 

Updating the gallery space was no small task! First, all the old exhibit was dismantled and objects were returned to storage. Then the exhibit cases were removed. And finally, the false walls that confined the space were demolished. Patching and painting is now underway. Future projects will see updated lighting and restoration of the windows.

 

Conversations are on-going about how to utilize this newly empty gallery space. The added space has already benefited our community family days and will hopefully provide space for student curated exhibits and larger student and alumni events.

If you haven’t been over to the Peabody for a while, now is the time!

Sharing what you learn – Student presentations

Image of student presenter

Contributed by Marla Taylor

On the third Tuesday of every month, the Massachusetts Archaeological Society – Gene Winter Chapter invites a guest speaker to their meeting at the Peabody Museum.  For the past six years, Phillips Academy students have been invited to speak about their experiences with archaeology at one of these meetings.

On February 16th, seven students, in three groups, shared their research and work on a variety of topics.

Youth for Restoration: Preserving Local History

Viraj Kumar’s ’17 interest in local history led him to create a non-profit organization that works to preserve and restore local history in Poughquag, New York. He discussed his experiences working with the community on a 19th century grist mill.

Printing History: 3D Rendering of Artifacts

Four students, Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ‘16, were challenged to scan three artifacts from the Peabody Museum’s collection and print them as 3D models.  They discussed the process and highlight some of the implications of this technology for museums and other institutions.

More than Meets the Eye:  19th Century Portrayals of Native Americans

In the 1830s, the first director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs launched an ambitious effort to collect over one hundred portraits of Native Americans.  Veronica Nutting ’16 and Alex Armour’16 investigated three of these paintings at the Peabody–how and when they got here, why they’re important, and how they compare to contemporary depictions of Native Americans.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 50 chapter members, professional archaeologists, and members of the PA community, all the presentations were very well received.  Congratulations to all the students for their hard work!

Check out this article from the Phillipian to learn even more.

3D Scanning Artifacts: How Does it Work?

Image of 3D scan in the 3D printing software

Contributed by Claudia Wessner, Makerspace Coordinator and Library Experience Designer

Huge progress has been made in the collaborative project between The Nest, the makerspace at Phillips Academy, and the Peabody Museum! From the first day we received the Next Engine 3D Scanner, we had hopes of testing out this new technology in a fun and interesting way. After talking to Marla Taylor, we both thought it was a no brainer to form a collaboration between the museum, the makerspace and a group of work duty students (Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ’16) to further explore the scanning possibilities.

In a previous post, Marla discussed the parameters in which the artifacts were selected. Once we brought the artifacts over to the Nest, we were able to make custom stands for two of the three artifacts so that they would be stable on the scanner. Then we got to work!

So, how does it work?

Before the scanning starts, we set up preferences such as resolution, color mode, and the number of incremental scans, as well as positioning the object in the camera’s field of view. The higher the desired resolution, the longer the scanning process will take.  Most of the objects we scanned took around one hour.

Collage of photos showing the lasers during the scanning process
Lasers scan the artifact

The scanner begins by taking a 2D image of the object then shoots out an array of red laser beams to capture the depth and texture of the object. Next, it completes a series of slow incremental rotations, based on the level of resolution selected, and performs the same 2D/3D rendering for each increment.  The Next Engine software slowly builds the 3D model before your eyes as it layers the data captured by the scanner.

Image of 3D scan of artifact
Fully rendered 3D model from the scan

After the scanning is complete, the 3-dimensional model of the artifact appears in the Next Engine software. Depending on how the artifact is scanned, there may be some holes in the model. This would be where the lasers may not have been able to reach, such as the top or the bottom of the artifact. There are ways to avoid holes by completing several scans of the same object (top, bottom, full 360) and then fusing them together. This is something I am looking forward to experimenting with in the future, but for our initial exploration we did a single scan.

In order to fill the holes in our model, I “polished” it using the Next Engine software. The program will automatically find and select holes in the model. Then you can use a paintbrush tool to select the areas in which you’d like to fill.  This can also take some time and experimentation, especially with very high resolution scans where image rendering can use a lot of computing power.

Once the editing of the model is complete, it is ready to prepare for printing by saving it as a .stl file and opening it in the Makerbot Desktop software. In the software you can scale, rotate, and place your object in the desired location on the build plate. You can also preview how long the print will take.  This artifact, which was approximately four inches tall, took about 5 hours to print.

Image of 3D scan in the 3D printing software
The 3D scan is ready to print

The Makerbot 3D printer uses a material called PLA that is stored in a spool in the back of the machine. The PLA is heated in an extruder and lays down very thin layers of material to build the object from the bottom up. Think of it like a glorified glue gun! The makerbot will automatically add “support material” that will support the object as it is printing so that everything stays intact. Once it is finished printing, any support material easily breaks off from the print.

Image of the 3D printed artifact
The 3D printed artifact!

We are so excited about the results of our project! We are looking forward to scanning more artifacts in the Peabody collection and refining our skills with this new technology! Stay tuned!

3D Artifact Collaboration

Contributed by Marla Taylor

An exciting new project is taking shape this winter at the Peabody Museum. Work duty students Alana Gudinas ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Mia LaRocca ’16, and Sarah Schmaier ’16 and I are collaborating with the folks at the Nest, the makerspace at Phillips Academy, to scan three artifacts from the Peabody’s collection and print them as 3D models.

The students were challenged to identify artifacts that were stable enough to be transported to the OWHL, which is where the Nest is located; had interesting textural details; and would not be limited by a 360-degree scan along a single plane (i.e., the top and bottom would not be “seen” by the scanner). The three artifacts they selected are from the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico and were excavated by Richard “Scotty” MacNeish in the 1960s. Two of the objects are whistles—we hope their 3D replicas will be playable!

The first scan has been completed, and more are scheduled. The students will clean and manipulate the scans before they print them.

An exhibition about the process and the implications of 3D scanning and printing technology on cultural heritage preservation will be installed in the OWHL at the end of winter term.

A major thank-you to Claudia Wessner, makerspace coordinator and library experience designer at the OWHL, and the Nest work duty students for all their help!

I will keep you updated as work progresses.

Boxes for Books

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Preserving old books on a budget can be tricky. What is an archaeology museum with dozens of historic books to do?

damaged book

The solution is simple: Utilize archival boxes.

book in box

The Peabody recently purchased a small quantity of archival KASEBoxes from ECS Conservation to rehouse about a dozen historic books. Students helped me take detailed measurements of the books so that the boxes could be custom-made. Now, volumes such as Standard History of Essex County, Massachusetts and Warren Moorehead’s annotated copy of Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley are available on the Peabody’s library shelves for use by the Phillips Academy community. These boxes provide a low-cost method of ensuring that fragile, delicate, or rare books are stored properly. Some of these books may eventually be the subject of conservation treatments.

More books are in need of a little TLC, so keep your eyes peeled for new archival boxes on the shelves at the Peabody!

Positive Negatives

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Opening drawers at the Peabody can occasionally lead to a surprise discovery. Recently, approximately 400 acetate negatives were discovered in an “empty” card catalog.

A little investigation revealed that these negatives include the original photographs from Alfred V. Kidder’s The Pottery of Pecos, Volume I. You can see these photos in Kidder’s publication here. The remaining negatives were of photos that Richard “Scotty” MacNeish took during his time at the Peabody, and they range from Canadian artifacts to materials from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

Acetate film, also known as safety film, was introduced by Kodak in the 1930s. Designed to replace nitrate negatives, which can spontaneously combust, acetate was in use for decades. The acids in the film, however, can deteriorate over time and emit a strong vinegar odor, an issue known as vinegar syndrome. The recently discovered negatives are in the early stages of vinegar syndrome.

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Image of a bowl from Pecos

We are working to preserve these negatives and have already sent approximately one-third of them to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) for digitization. The NEDCC will capture high-resolution images from the negatives and adjust them to create robust image files. The digitization process should be complete by the end of February.

Exploring Etowah One Object at a Time

Contributed by Marla Taylor

A brief exploration of Etowah, an archaeological site in Georgia, is now on display in the Peabody Museum lobby thanks to the efforts of work-duty students.

Along the Etowah River in northwestern Georgia, three massive earthen mounds mark the Etowah site. Etowah was occupied from approximately 1000 to 1600 AD as part of the Mississippian culture that dominated the southeastern United States at the time.

While only approximately 10 percent of the site has been excavated, Etowah has yielded thousands of artifacts ranging from projectile points to elaborate ceramic vessels. These objects reveal a culture with extensive trade routes and an appreciation of fine craftsmanship.

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Students prepare the exhibit labels

The culture of Etowah is explored through four artifacts—a ceramic vessel, a carved shell gorget, a ceramic pipe, and several shark teeth—researched by four students: Alex Hagler ’16, Jacob Boudreau ’16, Katherine Hall ’17, and Daniel Yen ’18. These students worked hard to write the exhibit text and determine the layout of the case.

Stop by the Peabody to take a look at their work and learn more about Etowah!

One object at a time student exhibit_2
The final product

Race and Identity in Indian Country

The end of fall term means the (temporary) end to one of my favorite collaborations – Marcelle Doheny’s Race and Identity in Indian Country course.

During the fall 2015 term, 11 Phillips Academy students explored the complicated relationship between Native Americans, museums and archaeology. Topics included scientific racism, federal Indian policies, museum collection practices, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).  The culmination of the course was to use the Peabody collection to re-present the stories in our main exhibit gallery with a more inclusive voice.

Curator of education Lindsay Randall and I co-taught the class with Ms. Doheny. We were able to join most of the class discussions and provide perspective from our archaeology and museum experiences. I also enjoyed making the collection accessible to the students as they worked to create their final projects.

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Students examine a headdress from Lakota Chief Rain in the Face

Watching the final presentations of the student’s revised exhibitions during assessment week was the perfect culmination to the term. Every group succeeded in reimaging how Native Americans are traditionally presented in an archaeology museum, moving beyond stone tools and ceramic pots. The students highlighted the continuity of native cultures despite the history of racism and dispossession.

I loved being a part of this course and look forward to being involved again next year!

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Final presentations!