Expanding Student Experiential Learning with Artifact Collections and 3D Technology

Project Title: Expanding Student Experiential Learning with Artifact Collections and 3D Technology

Project Lead’s Name: Jeb Card

Email: cardjj@miamioh.edu

Phone: (513) 529-5994

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CAS

Are There Other Project Team Members?: No

Brief description of project: With a dramatically increased interest in archaeology at Miami in the last several years, based in part on our success in melding our teaching collections with advanced technology, we have more independent study students and more course offerings working with the Department of Anthropology's teaching collections. We propose a two-prong effort to (a) expand our capabilities in advanced recording and access to these artifacts for students via 3D digitization and (b) expand our technological capabilities for curating and conserving our collections to make them more available for this increased student interest.

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: No

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem.:

Background and Need

The Department of Anthropology's archaeological and ethnographic collections are key to the Department's history and current mission. The donation of the initial core of the collection by Miami alumnus James A. Coulter in 1957 drove the expansion of anthropology at Miami, including the creation of an Anthropology Museum. The creation of the museum in turn led to additional donations, the aggregation of existing archaeological materials from various divisions of Miami University, and an increased prominence of anthropology and archaeology. Starting in 1957, the department amassed approximately 10,000 archaeological and ethnographic materials, primarily from the Americas but also with key smaller sub-collections from Europe and other locations. 

Changing priorities of the university and the Department of Anthropology led to the decision to transform the Anthropology Museum into a teaching lab space (Upham 180A,B,C) and teaching collections. A selection of artifacts have been used to great success in teaching courses including ATH145 Lost Cities and Ancient Civilizations, ATH155 Introduction to Anthropology, ATH212 Introduction to Method and Theory in Archaeology, ATH313 Latin American Archaeology, ATH314 Old World Archaeology, and ATH388 Culture, Art, and Artifact. These artifacts have also been instrumental in broader educational presentations to university visitors, students in other divisions, high school students in Summer Scholars and the Bridges outreach programs, and in other capacities.

This new pedagogical strategy has led to significant success in terms of full or overfull courses (my overall class fill rate is over 95% including summer and winter courses, and in the last two years I do not believe I have not had an archaeology-focused class during full semesters without filling and subsequent requests for force-add), substantial expansion of independent study by students interested in archaeology, and now the establishment of an Archaeology minor accompanied by more course offerings.

Since 2013, individual undergraduate study of material from the teaching collection has included: analysis of personhood as depicted in ceramic figurines at Teotihuacan; design of new archaeological pedagogy and teaching exercises through hands-on comparative analysis of stone tools from North America, Central America, and Europe; study of undergraduate interaction with archaeological material culture in the context of three-dimensional digitization; experimental research using three-dimensional digitization and replication (3D printing) of cylinder seals from South and Central America; digitization and virtual display of west Mexican Chupicuaro artifacts; visual anthropological study and digitization of early 20th century social sciences pedagogical materials; use of our materials in test-bedding augmented reality experiences aimed at archaeological pedagogy. Having trained on our collection, students have also used Department of Anthropology equipment and facilities to digitize and research ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian inscribed artifacts held by the King Library Special Collections.

Prior to 2016 in my own case I typically had two to three independent study students a semester working with these materials. This number has jumped to an average of six this year, and I expect it to continue for the foreseeable future. A number of these students were directly recruited through our teaching collection and our 3d technology offerings in either classrooms or outreach programs such as Summer Scholars.

This success produces two opportunities and challenges that can be resolved by students working in classes and in independent study with the Special Projects facet of the Department of Anthropology.

The first opportunity and challenge is increased desire and demand for instruction and research in innovative uses of new technology in archaeology. A major part of our success was catalyzed by the purchase, with Student Tech Fee funds, of a NextEngine laser 3D scanner. Beginning with this equipment and expanding into other aspects of digital archaeology has dramatically increased interest in the field of archaeology for both existing and prospective students. In the last three years we have sent archaeology students to study in the master's programs at Cambridge University, University College London, and Arizona State University, and the doctoral program at Harvard University. In all cases, exposure to and subsequent research and use of this technology by these students was a key or decisive factor in their career choice and success (building the framework of our 3D online museum as an Undergraduate Summer Scholar, expanding that museum and adding to it with photogrammetry, conducting photogrammetry for archaeological ends, instructing ATH212 students in 3D scanning). We have recently purchased a 3D printer to accompany our scanning capability. 3D printing, done in cooperation with the BEST library, has already benefitted our classroom students by allowing instructors to create replicas of artifact types we don't have. Students have also used replicas of our own artifacts experimentally in research on the design and function of these artifacts, presenting this work in various venues including national conferences and state and federal legislatures.

The second challenge and opportunity available to archaeology-focused Miami students is working to research, curate, and improve access to the teaching collection. Working with the artifacts in the collection has become a core aspect of our undergraduate teaching mission, both in introductory humanities and social science courses and for more in-depth instruction. Each year since the revitalization of the collections and lab space began in 2011, students have conducted independent study to improve the state of our collections, allowing more students to use these artifacts in the classroom. However, we are faced with a reality of prior issues of care for the collection when it was a museum collection prior to 2011. Damp conditions in the artifact storage areas, at times left without dehumidification, allowed mold to become an issue. Conserving artifacts and establishing secure environments for the collections not only will allow more of them to be used, but will allow us to fulfill our obligations as the keepers of this legacy collection.

We have built on our success by expanding our archaeological instruction offerings, including the new Archaeology Minor and the new capstone course ATH 416, Applying Archaeology. A key element to supporting these new offerings as well as supplementing what we've already been doing with students in both larger classes and in independent study is developing the designated Special Projects space for (a) increased activities focused on digital archaeology and (b) accelerating our revitalization of the Anthropology Teaching Collection, formerly the museum collection. This revitalization will then allow for an increase in student activities in collections management and digitization, allowing our third goal, to greatly expand the educational role of the collection beyond our students to the general public and to other scholars.

Problem Solution

The proposed equipment and software will serve three core needs to be undertaken by students. 

1. Increasing our capacity for artifact digitization and replication by students. Our NextEngine 3D Scanner is still functional, though perhaps no longer cutting edge. We will continue to use it for core parts of our artifact digitization. However, the growing consensus in archaeological circles is emphasizing photogrammetry. An added bonus for our purposes is that photogrammetry is well suited for large numbers of students to engage with, whereas the 3D scanner is less well-suited for mass engagement. I experimented with teaching numerous students in ATH212 and ATH388 with the NextEngine laser scanner in previous years. These mass-scale efforts were prohibitively costly in regards to time, but were instrumental in encouraging the students mentioned above. Photogrammetry focused efforts would bridge that gap.

We have software for photogrammetry work and we currently have students engaged in independent study on this work. However, a photogrammetric scan is only as good as the camera that captures the raw data. To make high quality scans for student and public use, our students need better photographic capability. A DSLR camera would provide this capability. 3D printing of artifacts based on these scans by students for research and presentation purposes would be aided by additional filament for printing.

2. Documenting currently non-transferable artifacts in place in the Upham basement storage areas. Over the past year, students have been engaged in studying the department's teaching collection, learning how to curate and work with such collections, and increasing the number of artifacts available for broader classroom study and teaching. These efforts have focused on artifacts previously made available through student and faculty efforts, but much of the collection remains in storage to be incorporated into our educational efforts. Until these artifacts are properly conserved, they need to stay in storage. A first step in student engagement with these materials will be documenting them in place and recording their current state in detail (ironically, one of the important methods we teach our students for archaeological investigation). A set of iPad minis would be ideal for this purpose. They combine database and photographic capabilities, and are lower cost and more useful in our tight storage spaces than the full-size iPads we use in our teaching laboratories. With this capability, students would be able to quickly work with an online database in cataloging the state of our holdings, and prioritizing their own efforts at research and curation in independent study and upper-level courses. 

This equipment would be dual purpose, able to be used in primate observation classes such as ATH/BIO 496 at the Cincinnati Zoo by biological anthropology professors Marchant and Scarry, as well as in ethnographic field research by Professor Hay-Rollins and other ethnographers in the department. For these latter reasons we are also requesting water-resistant covers for the devices.

3. Curation of less robust artifacts. To this point faculty and students have primarily focused on curating more robust archaeological artifacts in the collections, such as stone artifacts or ceramic artifacts in a good state of preservation. These are not the only kinds of artifacts in the collection. Other materials ethnographic and archaeological include textiles, wood, and less robust ceramics. A two-step plan for these artifacts involves establishing secure spaces for these materials, and then engaging students in curating and studying them in these secure spaces. In addition to the relatively new teaching lab spaces in Upham 180, the Department can also store some materials in Upham 071 and the Special Projects space in Upham 052. In the case of the less robust materials, however, we must be assured that these spaces are meeting key environmental characteristics, in particular relative humidity levels (mold does not propagate at under 60% relative humidity) and secondarily temperature and light conditions. The proposed monitoring equipment would be installed in Upham 180a's archaeology teaching laboratory and two other spaces within the Department of Anthropology (Upham 071, Upham 052) to ensure this.

The data loggers will allow for monitoring of these spaces. Collection of environmental data during seasonal changes will demonstrate that conditions are acceptable and stable, and in such case, transfer of less robust objects such as textiles, metals, or ceramics with organic pigments, can begin. These ethnographic and archaeological artifacts will have any mold deactivated and can be moved, with the HEPA-filter vacuum aiding in this process. The first step in undertaking this additional conservation will be providing environmentally stable conditions confirmed by monitoring equipment. This will allow interns and other anthropology students to work directly with these materials, and for all students in archaeology and anthropology classes to benefit from study of and research on artifacts that at this time are unavailable.

The criteria state that technology fee projects should benefit students in innovative and/or significant ways. How would you describe the innovation and/or significance of your project?:

Our proposal aids students at two levels. With this equipment, a smaller (but growing) number of students work intensively in researching, documenting, and curating artifacts in our previously less-than-documented collection. In the past, this has dramatically enriched student learning and experience, providing an experiential platform for student success in competitive grants, internships, and graduate school. The efforts of these students has generated greater overall utility of our collections in classrooms and outreach. Not only has this made these experiences more fulfilling and more desired by students (based on demand for classes, internships, and other experiences), it has increased the number of students wanting to work more intensively with these materials, joining the first group. Previous student work with our collections using advanced 3D technology has been highly innovative and successful. These results have been significant in increasing interest in Miami and its archaeology offerings, in part leading to the establishment of a new minor and the addition of course offerings beyond increased student independent research and study. As discussed below in assessment, students will increase our capabilities, with the aid of the requested technology, for teaching other students at the same time that they are learning highly useful professional skills and building their skillsets and portfolios for success as undergraduate students and beyond.

Courses Impacted

  • ATH145
  • ATH155
  • ATH212
  • ATH311
  • ATH312
  • ATH313
  • ATH388
  • ATH416
  • ATH/BIO 496

How will you assess the project?: While there are broader outcomes from the proposed project, including increased interest and demand for archaeological and anthropological science at Miami, some narrower and more easily assessed short-term outcomes include 

1. Development of a photogrammetry exercise for ATH212 Introduction to Archaeological Method and Theory and other archaeology courses. With the emphasis placed on photogrammetry, aided by the proposed DSLR camera, in the expansion of our 3D capabilities students in ATH416, Undergraduate Associates and other independent study students will design in the 2017-2018 academic year a new protocol to bring a large number of students into 3D data collection activities as part of ATH212, ATH388, and possibly other courses. The success of these efforts will be gauged by a survey instrument asking students about the impact of this experience. The designing student(s) will present the results of this work as a research presentation.

2. Creation of a new "wing" of the online anthropology museum based on larger objects unable to be scanned with the laser scanner, and incorporated into anthropology courses as experiential exercises. In addition to the above plans for ATH212, students working in UA and other independent study capacities will conduct research into some of our larger Mesoamerican artifacts that are too large to be easily documented by the NextEngine 3D scanner, but can be documented in high detail with the DSLR and existing photogrammetry software. These models will be built into our online museum space and used in exercises for ATH313 Latin American Archaeology, ATH388 Culture, Art, and Artifact, and ATH416 Applying Archaeology. The success of these efforts will be gauged by a survey instrument asking students about the impact of this experience. The designing student(s) will present the results of this work as a research presentation.

3. Documentation, Strategic Planning, and Curation of less-robust artifacts in storage. Using the iPad Minis, student interns will document the current state of major sections of the artifacts in our Upham basement storage. Using these records, they will work with faculty to create a strategic plan for these artifacts, and using the proposed HEPA equipment, bring some of these artifacts safely out of storage into documented stable spaces elsewhere in the building. A report on these activities will be produced at the end of the 2017-2018 year.

Have you applied for and/or received Tech Fee awards in past years?: No

If funded, what results did you achieve?: I have not previously submitted a tech fee grant proposal. I have consulted with Dr. Melissa Rosensweig on a Tech Fee Grant in 2016 and to a lesser extent with Dr. Leighton Peterson in 2015. The 2016 Grant was not approved but some of the applied for equipment was obtained with CAS funds. The successful use of this equipment, such as the 3D printer and Agisoft photogrammetry software, and how that success necessitates more student technology-focused activities, is discussed in the main body of the current proposal. For the question below, as I was not an author for these proposals, I did not directly take part in any final report.

Did you submit a final report?: No

What happens to the project in year two and beyond? Will there be any ongoing costs such as software or hardware maintenance, supplies, staffing, etc.? How will these be funded?: The only significant equipment maintenance in the future will be additional filter kits for the HEPA vacuum, and these will be purchased by the department.

Budget: Hardware

Hardware Title(s) & Vendor(s): ELSEC Environment Monitor Data Logger 1 Gaylord Humidity Test Kit 2 Gaylord Lascar Electronics Wi-Fi High Accuracy Data Logger 2 Gaylord Nilfisk Museum Vacuum Cleaner with HEPA Filter 1 Gaylord Nilfisk® Micro Tool Kit for Museum Vacuum Cleaner with HEPA Filter 1 Gaylord Nilfisk HEPA Replacement Cartridge 2 Gaylord Nilfisk Replacement Microfilter 2 Gaylord Nilfisk® 2-Ply Disposable Bags for Museum Vacuum Cleaner (5-Pack) 3 Gaylord Apple iPad Mini 2 with Retina Display ME279LL/A 7.9 inch 16 GB (Silver) 6 Amazon LifeProof NUUD iPad Mini 1 Waterproof Case - Retail Packaging - WHITE/GREY 6 Amazon Anker Tempered-Glass Screen Protector for iPad Mini / iPad Mini 2 / iPad Mini 3 with Retina display - Premium Crystal Clear (Not compatible with iPad Mini 4) 6 Amazon Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR Kit with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Image Stabilization USM Lens (Black) 1 Amazon Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras (International Version) + 7pc Bundle Accessory Kit w/ HeroFiber Ultra Gentle Cleaning Cloth 1 Amazon ABS Filament 3 Makergear

Hardware Costs: $9,421.27

What is the total budget amount requested?: $9,421.27