Graduate students Jennifer Knutson and Michelle Pigott, along with Dr. John Worth at UWF, visited the lab on Friday, October 10. They brought with them a broken ceramic vessel (which another student dubbed “Penelope”) made up of about ten sherds from a site believed to be the remains of Mission San Joseph de Escambe. The site was found in 2009 by UWF field school students and dates to around 1741-1761. Bend in the River: The Molino Mills Project is a short video made by UWF students that details the importance and varied use of the area.
The goal of this project, aside from scanning each piece of the jar, was to create a digitally mended vessel from the models of each individual sherd using NextEngine’s ScanStudioHD software. Each sherd was scanned twice using the NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner and then edited and printed using our MakerBot Replicator 2 printer. Since most of the sherds were of decent size (5-9cm wide, 4-8cm long), I did not have much trouble during any point in the scanning or editing process with the exception of one piece that refused to align and fuse properly. This sherd was one that I labeled “006” and was smaller than most of the other pieces.
This was my first experience digitally mending models but thanks to a previous co-worker who is now a graduate student at IUP, Allen Huber, and his paper titled “Broken Bones: Digital Curation and Mending of Human Remains” I was able to learn the process quickly. The first step in mending objects is to create a complete file of each individual model before trying to put them together. It took about two days for me to edit all ten models. Once each object is fused I can then use the “Align” option in ScanStudioHD to put together two models at a time. Using the “Align” option, I can mark points on the object by using “virtual pins” that connect specific sides of the two models together (Huber 2014). I began with the most obvious models that fit together, which were files “005” and “008.” It took several tries, but I was able to successfully assemble the two digital sherds. The third model I added was the piece I labeled “002” which is a burnt rim sherd. During the first two tries, I struggled to align the sides of the models so they perfectly aligned. Finally, on the third try (third time’s a charm), I was able to mend the third piece together. The fourth piece I added to the model was the one labeled “004” which connects models “005” and “002.” This model took only two tries to attach to the larger, aligned model perhaps because model “004” is smaller than the other three models.
Attaching the final few pieces to the vessel proved to be a challenge. The next piece I added to the digital model was the one of the larger sherds that was also the bottom portion of the vessel. This piece only attaches on one side to the larger digital model; the other side does not attach to anything as that side of the vessel is missing. The final piece also had the same problem – it only attached on one side to the vessel and to nothing on the other side. While the final two pieces do not mend together on the physical vessel, they come close to mending and that was difficult to translate in the ScanStudioHD software. In the end, I decided to include the bottom portion of the vessel but leave out the final piece.
However, one of the biggest problems I ran into during this process was the loss of color and texture on the object. About halfway through mending “Penelope” the files lost color and only half of the mended model displayed the color and texture. The rest of the object was blue. I contacted NextEngine support and unfortunately we were not able to come up with a solution to the problem. I was told, however, that sometimes when a file becomes too large, ScanStudioHD will shut off the texture in order to allow for faster and smoother processing of other files.
Finally, I decided to start over and since I have become very familiar with the mending process in ScanStudioHD, I was able to quickly mend the sherds together within a few hours. The 3D gods must have been smiling down on me that day because the software preserved the color and texture of the models and my previous mending problems disappeared.
The final step in this project was to print a 3D plastic replica of Penelope and then paint the plastic model to look realistic. This took about three hours on Friday, October 31, and now we have a digitally mended model as well as a painted plastic replica. The painted replicas are great for sharing with other students, faculty, researchers and members of the public. They can be handled without fear of being broken and give the viewer a more realistic representation of what the object looked like when it was in use.
Overall, the final products of this project include a digitally mended version of the ceramic jar, a painted 3D plastic model of “Penelope,” and finally, the actual mended object which will be completed in the near future by graduate students and professors at UWF. ScanStudioHD proved to be a successful and useful tool in mending objects and this method can be employed in situations where the actual artifacts are too fragile to physically mend.
To download Penelope or to view her in your browser, click here to check her out at GitHub!