Thanks to the magic of digital 3D imaging, students in Harvard professor Daniel Lord Smail’s Making the Middle Ages course had a virtual hands-on experience with a pilgrim ﬂask in our collections from the Byzantine period. Pilgrim ﬂasks (ampullae) were used to carry water or oils from pilgrimage sites.
Students turned, ﬂipped, and measured a 3D model of the ﬂask, which was created by Harvard teaching fellow Rowan Dorin in collaboration with the Harvard Art Museums and Harvard’s Academic Technology Group. Dorin used 3D modeling software to combine images of the ﬂask taken from diﬀerent angles.
In a world where so many aspects of our lives are mediated through digital media, Rowan says, 3D models give students an opportunity to not only interact with objects, to but reﬂect on the relationship between what is real and what is rendered. Who would have thought that a course so deeply rooted in the past would give students a new perspective on how we live in the world today?
Interact with the 3D model of the pilgrim ﬂask.*
Where can we go from 3D modeling? See how one California artist is working with sculpture and 3D printing technology.
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Images (top to bottom): 3D photography setup. Photo: Jeﬀ Steward; Close up of 3D photography setup. Photo: Rowan Dorin; Still of 3D model.