Architectural History doctoral candidate Jennifer Grayburn researches medieval Norse architecture in Iceland. Over a continent away, Classical Art and Archaeology doctoral candidate Benjamin Gorham oversees surveying and mapping Morgantina, an ancient city in Sicily. Both researchers, however, are drawn to the MakerBot 3D printer in the Makerspace of Alderman Library’s Scholars’ Lab to make their findings available not just virtually or in print, but tangibly as scale models and physical replicas that can literally be handled.
Grayburn, a Scholars’ Lab Makerspace consultant who assists students and faculty with digital projects, is currently working to reproduce and preserve a 12th century carved stone from Hítardalur, in Iceland, where it has eroded through centuries of northern winters. After she has sliced the 3D models and printed them in “pieces that we can glue together to get close to the size of the original item,” she will paint the finished product to make it look authentic; for Viking “belt buckles and decorative bracelets” she has used a compound of plastic and powdered metal that can be tarnished to resemble “artifacts in their archaeological state.”
Gorham used 3D images captured from hundreds of photos, some of which were taken by drones, to print a scale model of Morgantina’s archaeological site. Artifacts so fragile they could only be preserved in the soil in which they were found can now be physically appreciated in ways that were once unthinkable. He contemplates painting them “to resemble the actual ground soil types, the stone features and the terracottas.”
Grayburn and Gorham are glad to have the reproductions available for study, but both are aware that the greater value is in sharing the data over the internet with colleagues, and preserving them so that “even artifacts that are lost or stolen never truly disappear.”
Read more about Grayburn’s and Gorham’s projects in UVA Today.