My Time as the Immersive Scholarship Graduate Assistant

Working as a Graduate Research Assistant with the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) has been one of the most memorable experiences of my graduate student career. Collaborating with Matthew Hunter, the Digital Scholarship Librarian, I worked to expand university support of research that utilizes 3D scanning and modeling, 3D printing, and extended reality technologies. 

When I first began working as the Immersive Scholarship GA in August 2021, I spent the first few weeks exploring the digital tools and technologies available at DRS. I searched online for 3D models of objects and artifacts so that I could compare the differences in print quality between the two 3D printers available; I played around with the virtual reality (VR) headsets, web-swinging around New York City as Spider-Man; I used a handheld 3D scanner to scan rare and unique objects from FSU Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives Division (SCA); and I spent time researching examples of museums and universities that were similarly increasing efforts to utilize 3D digital technologies within their public programs and services. This work, albeit fun and experimental, was ultimately dedicated towards establishing the research and educational value of incorporating these digital technologies within our research projects, collections, and museum exhibitions, while similarly navigating the challenges that will inevitably arise when utilizing digital technologies.

Once I understood the basics of 3D scanning, modeling, and printing, I had the opportunity to participate in a collaborative project with students from the Classics department and Anthropology department at FSU. Lighting the Way to Archaeology is a program where tactile activities and 3D printed objects are utilized to give visually impaired participants physical access to ancient Etruscan artifacts and the processes of archaeological excavation. As part of our collaboration, the Immersive scholarship team 3D printed artifact replicas to engage children with visual disabilities about ancient Greek and Roman culture. Using open-source 3D modeling software, the textural features of some objects were enhanced to enable a deeper level of engagement through a tactile sensory experience. Utilizing the 3D modeling skills I gained from working on this project, I created the piece Visualizing Disparity for the Fall 2021 exhibition Art Education in Critical Times. Combining arts-based research with 3D digital technologies, Visualizing Disparity is a 3D printed data visualization representing income inequality in Leon County, FL. This piece was created to address issues of racial discrimination in Tallahassee, while dually questioning the potential benefits and disadvantages of using 3D modeling and printing to engage these issues.

During the Spring 2022 semester, I worked with FSU Libraries Technology and Digital Scholarship department to begin incorporating a 3D model viewer into DigiNole. This feature update would enable students and faculty to upload research that utilizes 3D data. Additionally, I worked on building and designing the Immersive Scholarship Program’s create.fsu webpage to promote digital humanities resources and services provided by DRS.

The work that I’ve performed as part of the Immersive Scholarship team ultimately culminated into my capstone project exhibition Thinking in 3D: Utilizing the Future to Reimagine the Past. Thinking in 3D uses 3D modeling and 3D printing technologies to explore the capabilities of these tools for research, education, and entertainment. Featuring over thirty 3D printed objects and artifact replicas from the fields of Classics, Archaeology, and Art History, this exhibition was curated in response to conversations surrounding the newfound responsibility museums and digital humanities centers have to digitally preserve objects in their collections. Thinking in 3D examines the potential promise of using 3D digital technologies for audience engagement, research, and education while additionally considering the ethical and social challenges of adopting these technologies, both now, and in the future.

Overall, working as an Immersive Scholarship GA with DRS has been truly invaluable and has allowed me to gain practical research, data literacy, and project management skills. Ultimately, I strongly believe this experience has prepared me for a successful career in the field of digital humanities and I’m excited to continue researching the applications of 3D digital technologies.

Yatil Etherly graduated with an M.A. in Museum and Cultural Heritage Studies at Florida State University. With research interests in digital humanities, immersive scholarship, and cultural heritage work, Yatil is dedicated towards exploring the ability digital technologies have to empower historically marginalized groups.   

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