Blog Post #9

The nature and theme of his week’s readings are particularly relevant to my interests. The utilization of virtual spaces and objects is quite natural for me, thanks to a lifelong interest in video games, and now in the recent purchase of a 3D printer. Despite this background, the application of digital technology, 3D printing, and virtual spaces this historical inquiry and preservation is quite a new concept for me (as I’m sure it is for most people, given how the field tends to entrench itself in the physical and tangible). The possibilities are quite thrilling, as evidenced by the content of Pastplay and Death in Motion.

While its simple enough to understand the applications of 3D rendering and printing as a means of recreating and preserving objects, using these technologies in the effort to research skills and cultural practices is incredibly interesting, and one that merits serious thought by the scholarly community. Documentaries often use 3D models to recreate spaces, though often the outcome seems trite (likely do their context in a documentary, which often isn’t taken seriously by academics to begin with). However, both articles prove the validity of using such technologies for serious inquiry.

I also feel the use of digital objects is particularly effective for the creation of digital exhibits. Both the Objects of Faith online exhibit and the various Smithsonian X 3D exhibits (especially the one about the Keet Saaxw hat) maximized on the potential of creation digital objects, and then rendering them with 3D printers and other technologies. The discussion of technologies used is insightful and the final results are impressive. So often digital exhibits fall lack impact due to unimaginative approaches and the reliance on 2d images and text (“putting a textbook on a webpage” similar to the pitfall physical exhibits face of putting too much text on real walls). Through the use of 3D models, however, you create an object the visitor can interact with, and examine at their own leisure. Adding in the printed component suddenly makes the digital tactile, in a way most museums do not allow. I think if applied properly these technologies can create some wonderful digital exhibits.

Each of these articles and websites makes a very valid case for the use of 3D technologies and acts of creation in the pursuit of digital history, one I am quite happy to embrace.

Further Reading:

William J. Turkel and Devon Elliott, “Making and Playing with Models: Using Rapid Prototyping to Explore the History and Technology of Stage Magic”
Diane Favro and Christopher Johanson, “Death in Motion: Funeral Processions in the Roman Forum”
Review Objects of Faith and several of the Smithsonian X 3D Tours
Christopher Johanson, “Making Virtual Worlds”  

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