When creating an opportunity for people to learn from a historic site, you don’t have to reject the benefits provided by the latest in cutting edge technology. Jamestown, Virginia is a cultural heritage site that provides a window onto the world of this country’s first permanent English settlement. If you visit, you will find that every effort has been made to portray the site’s historical importance down to the last detail. Now, however, you will also encounter the chance to learn even more through the application of emerging technology to centuries old traditions.
The creators of the Jamestown Rediscovery Education Shed, or Ed Shed for short, thankfully did not feel the need to give this technology driven education tool a corny name such as “Ye Olde 3De Printing Shedde” and instead opted just to make it an awesome way to interact with history. The Shed is packed with the kind of equipment that ups the cool factor of any location: an Ultimaker 2, Ultimaker 2 Go, Structure 3D scanner, Samsung Gear VR, View-master VR, Apple TV, and an iPad. Using all of this gear, visitors are able to get a closeup look at active excavations ongoing at Jamestown as well as pick up and handle artifacts that would otherwise be off limits.
“The idea came to me after reading reviews on TripAdvisor, visitor surveys, and just talking with visitors on a regular basis: there is nothing for kids. I also realized that by showing vs. telling how we go from an artifact in the ground to a 3D print in your hand, we could join the most progressive of museums in terms of our educational programming efforts.”
The Shed was opened this past June thanks to help from a James City County Grant and since its debut has seen over 10,000 visitors. Some of those visitors are repeat visitors, meaning they have truly enjoyed the experience. What Aronowitz really sees as the success is the enthusiasm he sees in young visitors after they have experienced the shed:
“Perhaps the most exciting thing is we are getting repeat visitors coming specifically to the Ed Shed with such quotes as ‘This is my favorite thing ever!’ or ‘I don’t really like history stuff, but this is cool history stuff!’…I get emails all the time thanking us for the experience in addition to the questions of how exactly to solidify a model in Meshmixer.”
In other words, people are figuring out that both history and technology are not as difficult to enjoy as they might have thought…and they certainly aren’t as separate as many people might have believed. Discuss this story in the Ed Shed forum thread on 3DPB.com.