(Metaphorically) In the Trenches with 3D Tech in Tuscany

This post, by FSU Libraries’ Digital Scholarship Librarian Matthew Hunter, is a repost from the Immersive Scholarship blog at https://immersivescholarship.create.fsu.edu. For more information about the work the Immersive Scholarship team is performing, or to discuss project ideas, please visit their site. For more information about the Cosa project and other Classical archaeology projects, check out the FSU Classics Department site at https://classics.fsu.edu/

This past June, I traveled to Italy to contribute to the long-running archaeological excavations at the ancient Roman site of Cosa. Perched on a beautiful coastal promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea about halfway between Rome and Florence, the ruins of the ancient colony are surrounded by the sleepy modern town of Ansedonia and provide hints at both Republican and Imperial urban planning and building techniques later deployed across the Roman world. The current, FSU-led excavations at Cosa have been focused on a bath complex located within the ancient town, and add to a program of study that has explored the site since the late 1940s. The current multi-institutional focus on the bath complex, directed by FSU Classics professor Dr. Andrea De Giorgi, is meant to illuminate a particular iteration of one of the hallmarks of a “proper” civilized Roman colony town, the bathhouse, which were hubs for social life in the Roman period. The baths at Cosa are particularly interesting as a case study in large part due to the lack of a natural water source at the site. As there were no wells, springs, lakes, rivers, or streams to provide potable water, all water used at the site would have been rainwater collected into large cisterns built around the site. Strategically doling out this rainwater for necessities such as cooking and drinking, and for leisurely comforts such as fountains and the baths, was the work of a sustainability-minded town.

A view of Cosa’s Arx, including the capitolium and basilica, with a modern installation art piece “Dal Giorno Alla Notte” by Felice Levini during the 2023 Hypermaremma art festival

The current FSU excavations at Cosa began in 2013 when Dr. De Giorgi and a team of FSU Classical Archaeology graduate students set out to add to a long-running series of excavations carried out under the behest of the American Academy at Rome. Prior excavations have outlined the general city plan, uncovered a forum and details of the village, explored the houses of the residents, investigated the religious locus of the town in detailing several temples on the “Arx (which is a Latin term for both the geographic summit of the site as well as its focal center), and investigated the long afterlife of the town’s settlement through the medieval period. The current exploration of the bath complex seeks to understand the extent of the town’s interaction with the larger Roman world as a center for maritime trade and commerce. Over the last decade, the FSU Cosa Excavations have produced a robust contribution to the understanding of Roman bath technology, Republican-era colonies, and more in various formats including edited volumes, articles, presentations, and dissertations – with the culmination of the project a slated entry into the series of major site reports under the University of Michigan Press imprint. 

Under the direction of the current FSU team, recent excavations at the bath are invested in performing not only vital archaeological excavations to better understand the built environment, but to also incorporate cutting-edge archaeological methods and modern technologies as part of their investigations. Among these are the use of drone-based aerial mapping, LIDAR topology scanning, and (most importantly to my work) photogrammetric and 3D scanned digital recreations of excavation trenches, artifacts, and site features. The production of these digital records is intended to help future researchers access the scholarly material of the excavations in a format that is most suitable and available to them, increasing the generation of knowledge about the site and of Roman history in general. By embracing these technologies and the more openly-accessible opportunities they present for sharing their research widely, the team hopes to invite new audiences into accessing their work and increase the impact of their scholarship beyond readership of the site reports and scholarly publications. 

As part of the university libraries’ partnership with the Cosa team, I have been assisting in these efforts by consulting on a digital database project and by working with the team to contribute to digitization efforts for the past several years. This has included, for the past two years, scanning artifacts with a high-resolution 3D scanner to create digital replicas for future study.  

FSU Libraries + Classics

Though I have a background in Classics, my contribution at the site is not intended to be as a subject-matter expert. There are far more competent Classicists and archaeologists on staff supervising the excavation, and a fantastic team of student archaeologists each summer contributing to the hard and sweaty work of excavation. My job, rather, is to create a digital record of select finds deemed important enough to capture for future analysis in highly accurate 3D models. This is important for the team’s broader efforts of analysis and communication, as the archaeological site itself is only open for excavation during the month of June each year. Thoroughly recording all aspects of the process along the way helps analysis during the other 11 months of the year, and the addition of accurate 3D models can provide an additional aspect of data that the standard documentation photographs may not. This results in a flurry of activity to document, photograph, identify, describe, and scan as many finds and features as quickly as possible. This past season, for example, I was able to scan 65 models in just two weeks, which will allow for further analysis throughout the year, and bring the total of objects scanned to 109. These scanned models are in addition to the documentary “photomodels” of each excavation trench generated by the team using photogrammetry.

The process of scanning first requires the discovery of materials in the field by teams of students working under the direction of a team of trench supervisors with years of experience and graduate training in Classical Archaeology. When a potential artifact is discovered, the trench supervisor documents its location in the trench and its general characteristics, then sends it to the team working in the magazzino where it is classified and further recorded (including things like measurements and weight). Once the artifact is classified by the magazzino team, they work quickly to attempt an initial identification (i.e. type of pottery, type of coin, description of general sculptural features). They will then document this information and capture identification photos. Then, if the artifact is of particular noteworthiness or uniqueness, the team will set it aside for scanning, where it makes its way to my queue.

At this point, I use the library’s Artec Space Spider 3D to begin the process of scanning the object. This scanner uses a combination of structured light technology and real-time photogrammetry processing to capture surface topology and real-color images. Structured light scanning is a process by which a regular shape (usually a grid) of uniform dimension is projected onto a surface, then captured by a camera. Powerful software then analyzes the image to determine how that grid is altered by the surface of the object. When put together with enough other photographs of the deformed grid, the software can begin to triangulate features by comparing how the grid changes across the photo series.

Interested in Photogrammetry & 3D Capture?

Join the FSU Libraries Immersive Scholarship team this fall as we present our Photogrammetry Institute. For more details, check out the event schedule and prior event topics on our event page.

In addition to the structured light method, the 3D scanner I use also employs a trio of high-resolution digital cameras set at particular angles to capture an instantly-triangulated view of any object it is pointed at. By knowing the exact angle the three camera lenses are offset, the software that reconstructs the scan data can quickly patch together the surface and color information of a model in real-time. Paired with the higher-resolution structured-light approach, scans of objects ranging from coins all the way to statues can be captured in minutes with astounding detail. 

Once each object is scanned, there are a few processing tasks I need to perform on the models to clean them up for presentation and eventual upload. The software paired with the Artec scanner automates most of this workflow, but still requires some decent processing power and time. This usually means that for every 10 minutes I spend scanning an object, I also have to spend 20 or so minutes performing hands-on cleaning and editing, with an additional 20-30 total minutes of hands-off processing time required for the computer to run through the various merging and texturing algorithms to produce the final model.

Timelapse of the scanning process from 2022

When things run smoothly, it usually takes anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour to finish the entire process of digitizing an artifact – from scanning to exporting a finished digital model. Not accounting for any errors in scanning or processing, the whole procedure is rather smooth and almost meditative. Where things get tricky are with objects on the extremes of size. One of the major limitations of the structured-light approach is the set size of the projected light-grid. While this allows for great accuracy when surface features deflect the grid, any features smaller than the grid are easily lost or left unrecorded. This is most commonly a factor on very thin objects (like coins) where the edge between two faces only deflects a small portion of the grid at any one time. This presents a problem in that the scanner can sometimes interpret this minor deflection as merely incorrect data capture – or “noise” – rather than actual surface information. And as good as the software usually is at tracking where the object benign scanned is at all times, thin edges like this are usually where the scanner begins to get confused, which often breaks the model.

 However, once the model is scanned and processed, I then gather a set of important data about the object in a spreadsheet for upload into the Cosa team’s working database. The full database captures all aspects of the excavation and is a massive undertaking to organize and update throughout the year. My small portion of the database pulls the archaeological context for each digitized find, and adds data specific to the 3D modeling process. Eventually, the finalized information from this working database will be consolidated and uploaded to the FSU institutional repository, DigiNole for preservation and presentation.

Left image shows the various aligned scanned data points as brightly-colored triangles; the right image is the finalized, processed model with color and texture information added.

But for the 3D objects I have scanned, however, the process of inclusion in DigiNole will happen much sooner. Thanks to the hard work of the Web Development team at the FSU Libraries, a new feature in DigiNole will allow for users to view and interact with 3D objects natively, much in the same way that the platform already supports PDF and audio/visual materials. This new feature will allow users the ability to engage with the 3D-scanned Cosa objects starting as early as this Fall, while research is actively ongoing. This is an exciting development for the project, as it allows for the fruits of FSU research endeavors to be held and cared for in an appropriate context within an academic environment. This is especially important, as for the past several years, the Cosa team has been uploading their 3D models of excavation trenches and objects to the public 3D repository Sketchfab. While Sketchfab allows for easy interaction with 3D models by the general public, not all of its content is scholarly (nor is all of it family-friendly, posing other problems). And though Sketchfab has done a great job supporting the work of cultural heritage institutions working to digitize and share their collections in 3D, their preservation and archiving obligations are very different than academic institutions’. We are proud to begin offering digital repository storage for 3D objects in the near future, and look forward to partnering with other researchers across campus to begin filling our repository with high-quality, high-impact 3D scholarship.

If you are interested in learning more about 3D scanning or photogrammetry techniques, be sure to check out our upcoming event series this fall, the Photogrammetry Institute, where we will focus on hands-on workshops with campus partners. Likewise, you can check out the recordings of the Spring 2023 events on our site here. For more information on services the FSU Libraries’ Immersive Scholarship team provides, feel free to explore our site at https://immersivescholarship.create.fsu.edu.

3D scanning at Cosa with resident supervisor, “Amore” the cat.

When Social Movements Collide: Open Access for Climate Justice

You’ve heard of climate change, but how familiar are you with the term climate justice? It’s the topic of the week since it’s the theme of International Open Access Week 2022, an occasion for challenging each other to raise awareness and take action on climate justice through the open and interdisciplinary sharing of data and resources. 

With hurricanes, heat waves, and forest fires appearing more regularly in our news cycle, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the discussion of our changing climate is becoming a bigger part of our lives. As we better understand the enormous threat that climate change poses to our planet, we more desperately than ever need to also have a grasp on climate justice–the aspiration to have all people, regardless of personal or community characteristics, treated fairly when it comes to protection, risks, policies, and decision-making around the impacts of climate change. In other words, when it comes to our environment and the changes happening globally, we must strive to consider everyone, understand how they’ll be impacted differently, and make decisions fairly.

While the term may be new to some, in reality calls for climate justice have been ongoing for decades. In fact, climate justice was born out of the environmental justice movement and is related to other calls to treat people more equitably such as movements for racial or social justice. Why is this so important? We know from past catastrophes that people’s level of vulnerability can vary widely based on their personal circumstances or their community’s demographics. This is one aspect of climate change where data and Open Access become very important; we need the open sharing of knowledge in order to address this important social and environmental issue and ensure justice for all. But, who has access?  

Free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research on climate change and how various demographics and geographies are impacted would be a powerful tool to aid and equip the communities most at risk. Removing barriers to accessing climate research would also enable faster communication and better engagement of both the general public and policymakers on related societal issues. Instead of data being individually owned and only available to those who can afford to access it, the general public would have the right to use scientific research results as needed. The best examples of this have been projects attempting to map overburdened, at-risk communities by incorporating a wide range of data, going beyond looking at risk from a one dimensional geographical perspective. 

For example, check out the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. Start by putting in the zip code of your hometown, and use it to have a look at the environmental and economic conditions of various communities. Then try exploring the area around FSU to familiarize yourself with the communities nearby and see how their issues compare to those in your hometown. 

Such tools are a great visual way to represent the combination of so much data. Use them as inspiration for starting conversations about climate change and/or justice. Climate Justice demands cross disciplinary collaboration, so campus forums like the Open Scholars Project could also serve as incubators for the climate action needed in our region and beyond. Through open information exchange and collaboration, we can create resources for understanding the needs of communities as well as non-human environments by evaluating their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Join together with your neighbors, campus groups, or local organizations to consider how best to take action to improve the resilience of communities where you live, study, work, or play. Whether that means volunteering, marching, donating, or joining, we need everyone’s contribution to make our communities more just and resilient in the face of climate change.

For more information about how the FSU Libraries supports open access, please visit our Research and Publishing web page here.

Author Bio: Mila S. Turner is the Social Science Data & Research Librarian at FSU Libraries and a broadly trained environmental sociologist. Her research spans diverse areas including how social inequalities intersect with environmental justice, racial equity, and natural disasters. Her thought leadership has been featured in The Hill, World War Zero, Quad Magazine, and more. 

My Time as the Immersive Scholarship Graduate Research Assistant

During the Fall ’21 and Spring ’22 semesters, I served as a Graduate Research Assistant with the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) at FSU Libraries. Collaborating with Matthew Hunter, the Digital Scholarship Librarian, I worked to increase FSU Libraries’ support of research services that utilize 3D scanning and modeling, 3D printing, and extended reality technologies. Working on various immersive scholarship- and digital humanities-based projects, including a self-curated exhibition, has made this one of the most memorable experiences of my graduate student career!

Continue reading My Time as the Immersive Scholarship Graduate Research Assistant

FSU Open Education Month 2022

Celebrate Open Education Week all month with FSU! Open Education encompasses resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment (SPARC). Join us for this opportunity for sharing and learning in open education on campus and beyond. To learn more about FSU Libraries’ open education initiatives, visit our OER & Textbook Affordability Initiatives, eTextbook Information, and OER Guide.

Week 1

March 3: Open Office Hours – Faculty Informal Lunch Space (FILS) is Open Education focused throughout the month. Open space to connect, collaborate, ask questions, or bring your lunch. Dirac Library Conference Room, 11 am – 1 pm.

Week 2

March 8 – 10: OpenEd tabling on Landis and in Strozier Library : Learn more about OER and textbook affordability efforts happening on campus and how you can join the movement. Tuesday, March 8, 4 – 6 pm; Wednesday, March 9, 2 – 4 pm; & Thursday, March 10, 3 – 5 pm

March 10: Open Office Hours: Faculty Informal Lunch Space (FILS) is Open Education focused throughout the month. Open space to connect, collaborate, ask questions, or bring your lunch. Dirac Library Conference Room, 11 am – 1 pm.

March 11: OER Happy Hour: Celebrate our efforts and connect with OER colleagues. Ology at Power Mill, 5 – 7 pm

Week 3

March 17: Open Office Hours: Faculty Informal Lunch Space (FILS) is Open Education focused throughout the month. Open space to connect, collaborate, ask questions, or bring your lunch. Dirac Library Conference Room, 11 am – 1 pm.

Week 4

March 24: Open Office Hours: Faculty Informal Lunch Space (FILS) is Open Education focused throughout the month. Open space to connect, collaborate, ask questions, or bring your lunch. Dirac Library Conference Room, 11 am – 1 pm.

March 25: Equity, Inclusion, and Textbook Affordability at FSU, presented as part of Fellows Forum, Lindsey Wharton and Shawna Durtschi present on how open educational resources can provide opportunity and support diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts. (Zoom link coming soon), 11 am – 12 pm.

March 28: Open Education at FSU: Join us for a discussion on where we are with open education efforts today, from a national perspective (Sonya Bennett-Brandt, Assistant Director of Institutional Efforts at OpenStax), an OER champion on campus, and our student advocates and leaders (Graceanne Hoback, Textbook Affordability Campaign Coordinator, FSU PIRG). (Zoom link: fla.st/Q1H7OGNM ; 12 – 1 pm)

Learn more and join the open community with Open Education events happening nationwide at https://www.oeglobal.org/activities/open-education-week/

Moving into a new house: FSU Libraries updates and improves Research Repository

By Rachel Smart and Camille Thomas

In the Summer of 2021, FSU Libraries migrated DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository to a new home that is completely hosted and maintained by Florida State University. DigiNole: FSU’s Digital Repository  features FSU’s theses and dissertations, open access research and digitized archival collections. DigiNole is Florida State University’s unified platform for FSU-created and maintained digital resources providing access to a wide range of different materials in the Digital Library and Research Repository.

The transition between site hosts involved a complex, multi-layered process. This transition took two years to complete, beginning in the planning stages and ending at the time of public launch July 15, 2021. Users will notice better responsiveness to mobile devices, a more elegant interface, and better overall site performance. Users are also able to directly download video and audio files from records which is a functionality available in the new system.

Since the launch of the upgrade system on July 15, 2021, the Libraries’ internal Working Group began exploring new features such as a 3D object viewer and integrating ORCID as part of a new repository submission process. The internal group is also working on ADA compliant enhancements to ensure the accessibility for theses and dissertations. Additionally, audiovisual items will display closed captions streams.

FSU faculty, staff, students and postdocs are invited to submit research outputs such as articles, book chapters, reports, datasets, and posters to the Research Repository to make them publicly available at no cost to the author. Library workers are available to assist in compliance with copyright, publisher policies and the FSU Faculty Senate Open Access Policy.

The Research Repository is the platform for self-archiving published or pre-publication works for free public use. Authors provide access to preprints or post-prints (according to publisher policy) in an institutional archive such as DigiNole or a disciplinary repository such as arXiv.org. This is often referred to as “Green Open Access” and aligns with the FSU Faculty Senate Open Access Policy.

FSU students, researchers, and faculty wanting to submit their works to the Research Repository, this process is unaffected by the system changes. Users submit their works through the online submission form.

Figure 1. This animated image demonstrates the utilization of the search bar on the Research Repository’s homepage.
Figure 2. This image is a continuation of the search process introduced in Figure 1., featuring the search results page and the selection of the record the user was searching for.

Our developers are leaders in contributing to the Islandora open source development community. For example, it is the first time ISLE (dockerized Islandora) has been deployed and hosted as a distributed deployment (multiple servers for different parts of the stack) in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environment, featuring one of the biggest Solr search engine indexes in the digital repository community. The process included building and sustaining this technical infrastructure in a cloud-based computing environment (AWS), deploying an updated version of the repository’s software stack (Islandora) within this environment, and transferring the contents of the old repository to the new one in a way that maintains their integrity and discoverability.

For more information on the system migration, visit https://www.lib.fsu.edu/diginole/diginole-migration or please contact lib-support@fsu.edu with questions.

Introducing FSU Libraries eTextbooks Search

Lindsey Wharton, Michael Pritchard, Finley Talley

As we welcome the start of 2021 Summer C, FSU Libraries are proud to announce the launch of our eTextbooks in the Classroom portal!

FSU Libraries’ new eTextbook program identifies currently available eBook titles assigned as required course materials. Instructors and students are able to search by course code, instructor, or book title to see if required course materials are available online through the Libraries. Since its implementation, this project has identified 848 total titles in Spring 2021 and 343 titles in Summer 2021 available through the Libraries’ existing licenses. In these two semesters, the total potential student savings is $1,941,369. 

This initiative was inspired by ongoing student feedback about the high cost of course materials. The Libraries’ eTextbook program builds upon our current Course Reserves service and bolsters advocacy for the program as part of the broader Libraries’ Open & Affordable Textbook Initiative.

Here is a message of support from a student whose textbook was identified as currently licensed by the Libraries:

It’s well known that textbooks can be an onerous additional cost for those pursuing any degree, so it was a welcome and extremely helpful surprise when my professor announced that the library had added an electronic version of the course textbook. This happened two semesters in a row, and the savings across those semesters was close to $200 just for two classes. The ease of access is also a huge benefit that I was very grateful for.

FSU Libraries eResources expand the amount of materials available for higher-level coursework and complements other open educational resources. Furthermore, this program provides a crucial opportunity to support student success by ensuring equitable access to teaching and learning materials. Our eResources work to benefit our FSU community by…

Positively impacting student success & engaged learning

20 out of 28 instructors from studies between 2015 and 2018 reported that learning outcomes improved with open textbooks. FSU Alternative Textbook Grant recipient Vanessa Dennen, Professor of Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies, recently published results from her customized OER project in which students offered positive feedback because the OER were customized to meet their needs and received accurate, relevant, and focused learning materials. This OER and eTextbook integration in the classroom meets these same learning outcomes by providing students and instructors access to paid information that is covered by FSU Libraries.

Ensuring an affordable FSU education for all students regardless of socioeconomic status.

 A ground-breaking study from the University of Georgia found that drop, fail and withdrawal rates (DFW) decreased significantly for low income (Federal Pell Grant Recipients) and part-time students when Open Educational Resources (OER) were used in courses. There was a 53.12% increase in average course grade and a 29.54% decrease in DFW rates for students who were not enrolled full-time. The average final grades of self-identified non-white students in the study were higher with OER and their DFW rates were lower.

Allowing instructors to incorporate perspectives that prepare students to live and work in a diverse and global society.

Open Educational Resources support a diverse community of learners including those with accessibility needs and multicultural perspectives and active student participation with materials. Sixty-four percent of faculty members in studies between 2015 and 2018 reported that using OER facilitated meeting diverse learners’ needs and sixty-eight percent perceived greater student satisfaction with the learning experience when using OER.

We look forward to growing our eTextbook program as part of our larger affordability initiative to reduce barriers to information access and reduce the cost of higher education.

If you are interested in adopting a library-licensed or open eBook to replace your traditional textbook, please reach out to Lindsey Wharton or learn more at our eTextbook Information for Instructors.

Alternative Textbook Grants

Instructors, this one’s for you!


The Alternative Textbook Grant program caters to main FSU campus instructors as it addresses the rising cost of college textbooks. This textbook affordability initiative by FSU Libraries will be awarding grants of $1,000 each over the 2020-21 academic year to instructors who adopt Open Educational Resources (OERs) or library-licensed materials to replace commercial textbooks. These grants support the university’s strategic goals to support overall student success and enhance diversity and inclusion.

Open textbooks go through the process of being written by experts, peer-reviewed and published under flexible copyright licenses for downloading purposes, distributed, and adapted for free. The grants can also be used to purchase eBooks for course textbooks that are purchased as a part of the FSU Libraries collection with unlimited user licenses.

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DH Currents: The Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection

Land Acknowledgement: Florida State University is located on land that is the ancestral and traditional territory of the Apalachee Nation, the Muscogee Creek Nation, the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. We pay respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to their descendants and to all Indigenous people. We recognize that this land remains scarred by the histories and ongoing legacies of colonial violence, dispossession, and removal. In spite of all of this and with tremendous resilience, these Indigenous nations have remained deeply connected to this territory, to their families, to their communities, and to their cultural ways of life. We recognize the ongoing relationships of care that these Indigenous Nations maintain with this land and we extend our gratitude as we live and work as respectful guests upon their territory. We encourage you to learn about and amplify the contemporary work of the Indigenous nations whose land you are on and to endeavor to support Indigenous sovereignty in all the ways that you can.

DH Currents” is a blog series conceived in the summer of 2020 by the members of the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship at Florida State University Libraries. The goal of the series is to identify and highlight digital scholarship projects that take-up anti-racist and decolonial causes as part of their methodologies, content, and intentions. These initiatives foreground the principles of inclusion, truth telling, and dismantling the often oppressive practices of academic and cultural heritage preservation work. Each post will include a project description in addition to input gathered from its principal investigators, maintainers, and other participants. This series aspires to provide both a platform to share information about these scholars’ important contributions to the field of digital scholarship and to spark dialogue on topics related to ways academic libraries and other memory institutions can engage in this urgent, necessary labor. 

Continue reading DH Currents: The Black Women’s Suffrage Digital Collection

3D-printing COVID-19 face shields at the FSU Libraries

Due to the shortage of readily-accessible personal protective equipment for first-responders and healthcare providers around the world, many involved in maker communities have responded by crowd-sourcing ways of rapidly manufacturing makeshift equipment to fill in the gaps while supply chains can respond. This is happening at the local level as well — Tallahassee’s local makerspace, MakingAwesome, and several departments at FSU began exploring ways of leveraging various rapid-manufacturing technology available on campus (such as 3D printers, desktop laser-cutters, and more) to answer this call. By the end of March, a partnership between the FSU Innovation Hub, FSU College of Medicine, High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Master Craftsman Studio, University Libraries, and MakingAwesome was formed, and The iHub began coordinating the donation materials such as sewn face masks and 3D-printed face shields at the beginning of April. This partnership was spearheaded by FSU College of Medicine faculty Dr. Emily Pritchard and iHub director Ken Baldauf.

Continue reading 3D-printing COVID-19 face shields at the FSU Libraries

Digitizing the Past: My Time as a Digital Cultural Heritage Intern

By Grace Robbins, Office of Digital Research and Scholarship Intern, Fall 2019


During this semester I have been working as the Digital Cultural Heritage Intern in the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship. You might be wondering, what in the world is digital cultural heritage? It seems like a fancy title, but for what? Essentially the concept of digital cultural heritage is defined as preserving anything of cultural significance in a digital medium. Anything we preserve becomes part of a “heritage” to something, whether that be to an individual person or a whole culture. I was interested in working more with the intersection of digital humanities and archaeology after volunteering on the Cosa excavation in Italy directed by FSU. Archaeology is such a material driven, hands-on discipline (and science!), and it proves to be an effective tool to understanding–and interacting with–the past. However it generates so much data. Archaeologist Ethan Watrall writes, “The sheer volume and complexity of archaeological data is often difficult to communicate to non-archaeologists.” Furthermore, many discovered artifacts and architecture remain inaccessible to most of the general public. Thus, the goals in my internship revolved around understanding how digital platforms affect accessibility to these “heritages,” specifically in the contexts of archaeology and the humanities, so that scholarship is furthered for people in academia but also, hopefully, the general public.

I did most of my work with the Digital Cosa Project, which included uploading data from the Cosa hard drive onto DigiNole, FSU’s Digital Repository. My tasks confronted some organizational and technological challenges, however, as the large amount of data to be ingested meant rethinking the best way to organize the digital collection. We ended up switching plans from organizing by excavation year to organizing by type of file (artifacts, plans, maps, stratigraphic unit sheets, etc.). I also practiced coding, which most historians or archaeologists may not be familiar with. It begs the question, should these disciplines incorporate more digital education in the future? How useful would this be?

I also wanted to experiment with visual technology, including 3D applications such as 3D modeling and 3D printing.

3D model of a trench from 2019 excavation season being built in Meshroom, a free and open source photogrammetry program.

I especially enjoyed learning about 3D printing because it ran simultaneous to the FSU Archaeology Club’s “Printing the Past” exhibit in Dirac, which displays one important way digital humanities can further archaeological knowledge: hands-on learning! I couldn’t have learned about ancient Rome better than when I was unearthing ancient material on the dig and providing such artifacts in the form of 3D printing for non-archaeologists to interact with bears pedagogical significance.

Standing with the Cosa poster for the “Printing the Past” exhibit by the FSU Archaeology Club. I helped 3D model and 3D print the 3rd object from the left, an inscription found in the 2019 excavation season.

3D scanning was not as easy of a task, as new technology always comes with a learning curve, but in the future I want to continue working with this practice.

3D scanning the Napoleon Bonaparte death mask in Special Collections.

In my time at the internship, I have broken down my understanding of digital humanities from a broad concept to a web of applications that further humanities and archaeological knowledge. I will continue to work in the internship next semester, and I hope to continue mastering 3D modeling and printing and am looking forward to developments in the Digital Cosa project as we finalize our plans for the Cosa digital collection. Most importantly, I am eager to experiment with more creative ways these digital applications can be used in academia and the general public that will enable us to be more “in touch” with the past.