Digitizing Carnegie Artifacts Using 3D Laser Scanning Services

Students' 3D Scans Are Already Being Included In Museum Exhibits

A group of Pitt undergraduates is using 3D laser scanning services to digitize the collections at the offsite storage facility of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. These students are not here to participate in official club activities or to get course credits; they simply want to learn cutting-edge technology that will benefit their future careers. 

The collaboration was suggested to the museum by Josh Cannon (UHC, A&S ’10), a scholar-mentor in Pitt’s University Honors College who has experience in archaeology and offers 3D scanning services. And the computers and Artech scanners are funded by Carnegie Discoverers, a member club at the museum.

Cannon assembled a group of eager students ranging in age from freshmen to seniors, all of whom were excited to learn how to use the museum’s equipment for their museum studies and research.

Although the collaboration is still in its infancy, the group’s 3d scans have already been included in museum exhibits. Assistant Curator Lisa Haney of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has put together a display case titled “From Egypt to Pittsburgh,” which will include stories of how artifacts from the museum have made waves abroad, as well as 3d scans done by students. The display will also be available in Egyptian Arabic with the support of the Pitt Arabic Club.

After completing that display, the team’s bigger objective is to continue scanning difficult objects and eventually make themselves available to any museum researcher seeking a new perspective on an item in the museum.

The Benefits of 3D Laser Scanning Services

While closely inspecting an object might reveal a lot about it, some features can only be seen with 3d laser scanning services. Researchers can use 3d scanning services to exchange data about delicate artifacts that cannot be transported for a variety of reasons. 3d scanning services can also give museum visitors a new perspective on things they wouldn’t see in a traditional exhibit, as well as the opportunity to print copies that can be handled. 

In their early stages of learning 3d scanning, each student brought in an object to scan. “I brought in a small porcelain pig tchotchke,” explained Brianna Stellini, anthropology, and history of art and architecture senior. She assumed scanning it would be a simple task due to its size and texture. “The face turned out to be on the side, with four eyes and four ears,” she said.

Making 3d scans is a skill that requires a delicate touch and a great deal of concentration. You’ll need to use the scanner to make accurate passes over an object, integrate different layers in computer software, and then clean up the generated data precisely to create the final image.

Other team members include students Helena Hzyiak, Emily Wiley, and Charlie Taylor. They all intend to work in other areas such as mammals and paleontology as they grow further. Thanks to a lot of practice, Stellini and her students have come a long way since the pig incident. For all of them, this work offers a fascinating introduction to the world of museums.

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