Samantha LaPlante's internship in 3D scanning teaches her practical skills and moves her toward her career goal of working with artifacts in a museum or becoming an archivist.
LaPlante, a junior from Springfield, VT, and Archaeology, Geography, and Applied Anthropology (AGAA) major with a minor in History, has been participating in 3D scanning internships under Professor Matthew Moriarty on the Castleton campus. Her work is funded as part of the archaeological investigations at Granger House on the Castleton campus.
As part of her paid internship, LaPlante has been creating digital copies of artifacts found from excavations at the Granger House on campus. These digital artifacts are uploaded onto Castleton University's Sketchfab account. The artifacts are primarily ceramic pieces and glass bottles, but a couple of other notable items have also turned up, including a clay smoking pipe, a 1798 U.S one-cent coin, and a bone toothbrush.
"Digitalizing the artifacts found during the Granger House excavation is a great way to make them more accessible to people, including those outside the Castleton Community," LaPlante said. "The digital artifact of the clay pipe, for example, is a replica that can be downloaded and 3D printed, creating a nearly exact copy of the pipe but out of a less fragile material."
LaPlante said that learning the ins and outs of 3D scanners is important as this is a field that will only grow and that these skills will pay off in the future.
"Being able to see an artifact go from the sifter at the Granger House to being cleaned in the lab, and then being able to scan and create a 3D digital copy of the artifact is amazing," she said. "Creating the 3D scans of the artifacts is such a rewarding job as each artifact has its own challenges, but in the end, the goal is to get them as true to life as possible on screen."
AGAA Program Coordinator Dr. Matthew Moriarty said learning to use a 3D scanner and go through the lengthy post-processing necessary to produce a high-quality 3D model is something that takes a lot of dedication and practice.
"Samantha has done an outstanding job of that over the past year, really mastering some state-of-the-art technology. She has already published dozens of 3D models in our online database, with many more in the queue, and one of her recent contributions – a 3D model of a beautiful brass fish from Castleton's Christine Price Collection – was recently featured in Sketchfab's Cultural Heritage and History Weekly Top 10," Moriarty said.
Moriarty added that LaPlante's work is meaningful for both her academic progress and the project outcomes.
"Samantha's work with artifacts from Granger House will be particularly useful as we present the results of our investigations. For many people, seeing an object in full-color 3D or handling a 3D-printed copy can help them understand why the history and archaeology of a place really matters. We plan to create both virtual and hands-on exhibits focused on the home's inhabitants when the work is done and Samantha's contributions will certainly be displayed prominently," Moriarty said.
The Castleton University Digital Archaeology Project was founded in 2019 to explore new avenues in archaeological research and to digitally curate cultural heritage resources from Vermont and the South Lake Champlain Basin.