3D Scanning Helped Recreate African American Face Vessels

3D SCanning
Picture Credit: PBS

Artifacts from various cultures are valued in art exhibits across the country. However, there was something special about the face vessels made 150 years ago in South Carolina by African-Americans. These face jugs were originally on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum and in an exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina. However, thanks to 3D scanning, more people can appreciate the face jugs than ever before.

Under commission from the Chipstone Foundation, Brian Gillis created a piece of art that used the face jugs for inspiration. It’s called “Of Ghosts and Speculation” and features face jugs, metal plating and compartments inside that include archival material about the face jugs. These items include a magnifying glass, hard drive, two thumb drives, a piece of clay, and a small book.

In order to make this piece of art, Gillis utilized the Rapid Prototyping Center at the Milwaukee School of Engineering to take three-dimensional scans of the jugs. All of the work was completed remotely, as Gillis never left Oregon.

To get an accurate 3D scan of the face jug, a black net was placed over it that contained target. A Creaform RevScan was used for the 3D scanning process. This device is handheld so it could be run over the jug and capture all the nooks and crannies. This is essential for creating an accurate and true to life model.

Geomagic Studio was also used in order to combine several files and to patch holes to create a completely watertight surface. This created the best marriage between software and hardware. The model was also upsized so that compartments could be created inside of it for the art piece. They used Geomagic Freeform for this. The final scan was three times larger than the original and included a hinge door on the back. All of this couldn’t have been possible without the use of 3D scanning technology. It just wouldn’t be possible to have such an accurate replica that could be modified so easily.

The time capsule version of the jug was cast using rapid prototyping and had nickel plating added to increase its strength and durability. Finally, superglue was used to seal the time capsule before the nickel plating was applied. The result was a project that looks at back in time as well as forward. It includes elements of history and uses the newest technologies. If anything, this project shows yet another way in which 3D scanning is being used to shape the future.

Watch Face Jug on PBS. See more from History Detectives.

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