Drexel University

Preparations for Archaeology Month in the City of Brotherly Love Philadelphia, PA

By Ryan Rasing

STAR “Students Tackling Advanced Research” Scholars Program

Digital Media Department, Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design

Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

I am a freshman studying Game Art and Production at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Drexel University. This summer I am participating in the STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program. Working under Associate Professor Dr. Glen Muschio. Today I am storyboarding two Public Service Announcements (PSAs). One PSA is for a Philadelphia archaeology event open to the public, the other is to announce Pennsylvania’s Archaeology Month, set for October this year. The PSA’s will be shown on a giant LED screen on the 27th floor of the PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) Building in Center City, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia PSA Draft Screenshot

One of the PSAs will show Philadelphia’s skyline rising above layers of stratigraphy. Selected 3D artifacts will begin to move across the screen superimposed over the skyline/stratigraphy background. As the artifacts exit the frame, text follows announcing, “Explore Philadelphia’s Buried Past 10/10 http://www.phillyarchaeology.org/”.  The PSA will run 30 seconds in length and will be shown on the PECO Crown Lights for 3 days in October.

The second PSA will also feature 3D models of archaeological artifacts from the Independence National Historical Park’s collection. Last week I assisted Digital Media grad student Jonnathan Mercado in scanning and photographing artifacts selected by INHP Chief Historian and archaeologist Jed Levin.

Inspecting artifacts at the Independence National Historical Park
Inspecting artifacts at the Independence National Historical Park (From Left: Jonnathan Mercado, Ryan Rasing, Jed Levin)
Working on the PSA
Working on the PSA

 

 

Historical Archaeology New Technologies and Community

Glen Muschio –
A Day of Archaeology, 2014

As an associate professor of Digital Media at Drexel University and as a cultural anthropologist my interests focus on using digital technologies to explore issues relating to cultural heritage. I work with digital media students, Philadelphia area archaeologists, operators of historic sites and archaeologists, historians and museum curators at Independence National Historical Park (INHP) to produce 3D digital models of historical artifacts, structures and sites. Several of the 3D house models are visualizations based on archaeological evidence and historical documents. One such model is the James Oronoco Dexter House.
Dexter House original model

The archaeological remains of the house were discovered during excavations conducted in 2001-2003 in association with the construction of the National Constitution Center on INHP grounds. The Dexter House is of considerable historic interest, it was occupied in the 1790’s by James Oronoco Dexter, a manumitted slave active in Philadelphia’s emerging African American community. The house was used as a meeting place for discussions relating to the founding of the African Episcopal Church of St Thomas. Historical records document meetings attended by Absalom Jones, the church’s founder and the first ordained African American priest in the Episcopal Church. Other attendees included prominent Philadelphia African Americans and Euro Americans.
Dexter House front and rear

Over the years the 3D model of the Dexter House has developed in consultation with archaeologists and other experts. Each iteration of the model seeks to refine its historic accuracy. The first version was produced in 2005. Helpful critiques led to a 2007 refinement of the exterior house model. In 2012 models of the house interior were produced and the model was placed in a game engine enabling explorers to navigate around the exterior and the first floor interior of the house.
Dexter model Large room

Historically appropriate virtual furnishings were added. Also added were virtual ceramic artifacts produced from 3D scans of artifacts excavated at the archaeological site and believed to be associated with Dexter’s occupation of the house.
James Dexter Model

Last night the latest iteration of the model was shown to members of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum (PAF) and demonstrated in the Oculus Rift, a head mounted 3D immersive display system enabling wearers to virtually stroll around the exterior and interior of the house.
Matt and Chester demo prep
We also discussed plans to produce 3D interior models of the 2nd floor and garret. PAF members provided feedback on preliminary models. The long-range plan is to produce a 3D interactive environment in which visitors to the site can discuss 18th century views on race, religion and class as well as their 21st century legacies and consequences. Today I am reviewing notes from last night’s meeting.

PAF tour

Glen Muschio, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Antionette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design
Drexel University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA)

Historical Archaeology New Technologies and Community

As an associate professor of Digital Media at Drexel University and as a cultural anthropologist my interests focus on using digital technologies to explore issues relating to cultural heritage. I work with digital media students, Philadelphia area archaeologists, operators of historic sites and archaeologists, historians and museum curators at Independence National Historical Park (INHP) to produce 3D digital models of historical artifacts, structures and sites. Several of the 3D house models are visualizations based on archaeological evidence and historical documents.  One such model is the James Oronoco Dexter House.  (more…)

Digital Model of the James Oronoco Dexter House

I am a freshman at Drexel University studying 3D Animation and Visual Effects. As part of my participation in this year’s STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) program at the University, I am working with Dr. Glen Muschio to continue work on the James Oronoco Dexter house model. The 18th century house stood on grounds now occupied by the National Constitution Center. It is of historical significance because in the 1790’s it was lived in by Dexter, a manumitted slace active in Philadelphia’s African American community. Students have previously modeled the exterior of the house as well as the first floor, including furnishings. Today I worked on laying out possible configurations for the house’s second floor and garret.

IMG_1341

As part of my work on the house, I have reviewed Independence National Historical records (http://www.nps.gov/inde/historyculture/dexter-who.htm ) concerning the house, as well as historic insurance records. Last night, July 10th, I spoke with Philadelphia Archaeology Forum members Jed Levin and Doug Mooney, archaeologists who excavated the Dexter site. They reviewed my preliminary models and offered suggestions for consideration. There are no archaeological remains of the second floor of the house, which means we cannot be sure of the correct layout. However, we can infer from historical records describing similar homes and from standing historical houses from that era what the layout might have been like. With this information it is possible to produce a number of layouts that might have been possible within the given space. Without the benefit of an archaeological record we have no way to know the exact layout. Submitted by Matthew Mlodzienski

Screencap

Archaeological Reconstruction Using the Oculus Rift, Philadelphia, PA

day
I am a former graduate student in Digital Media at Drexel University. Today I did some finishing touches on the digital recreation of the Dexter House. The Dexter House was originally the home of James Dexter who helped provide a meeting place for The Free African Society which was a precursor to the building of an independent black church. I had worked on the house in the past when I was an undergraduate at Drexel during it’s initial foray into reconstruction and was glad to be able to work on it again. This time I took the digital elements, modified them based on new data and put it into the Oculus Rift, a head-mounted display system, that let’s users view the virtual space in 3d when they wear it. The users feel like they are inside the Dexter House exploring it in person. A lot of work was done in recreating and furnishing the interior of the house and further work is being done on recreating the upper stories as well. Hopefully this technology can be applied to future archaeological recreations to encourage participation and immersion.

Archaeology, Animation, and Visual Effects

By Zachary Stockmal, Digital Media Freshman Westphal College
Drexel University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

July 24, 2013

I am a freshman studying Animation and Visual Effects at Drexel University. This summer I am participating in the Drexel STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) Scholars Program. Justin Wu, another Drexel student in the same major and I are currently working with Digital Media professor Dr. Glen Muschio and archaeologists Dr. Patrice Jeppson and Wade Catts. Together we are working with Denise Dennis, the 1st child in the 8th generation of the Dennis family.  The project we are working on concerns the archaeological remains of The Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust. It is a 153-acre property that used to be owned by the free African-American family of Prince Perkins and is now owned by descendants of the Perkins-Dennis family.

Today, we went over a feature map made by McVarish and Catts of John Milner Associates (Historical Preservation and Cultural Resources Services). The map shows architectural remnants of a barn and other structures on the Dennis Farm. We matched that information with photographs of the structures we took of the site 2 weeks ago. This information is going to be used to digitally recreate the barn into an interactive 3D model.

Today was a great start into delving into a rich historical site, and the excitement and encouragement we have received from our mentors is going to make this a worthwhile project.Zachary Stockmal photographs detail of the Dennis Farm barn stone wall. (Photo by Justin Wu.)

African American Archaeology and 3D modeling

By Glen Muschio Associate Professor, Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Drexel University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA  (Posted by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum webmaster)

Wednesday July 24, 2013

I am a media producer and cultural anthropologist teaching Digital Media at Drexel University. Today I met with Zachary Stockmal and Justin Wu Digital Media STAR (Students Tackling Advanced Research) students preparing a 3D digital modeling project that will reconstruct a barn, a silo and other structures that once stood on the Dennis Farm (see http://thedennisfarm.org/).  Work is underway with guidance from archaeologists Dr. Patrice Jeppson, Cheyney University and West Chester University, Wade Catts, John Milner Associates, and in consultation with Denise Dennis. The long range plan is to develop a 3D interactive environment that will help tell the story of the farm founded by a free African American family in the Endless Mountains of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, 1793.  The farm has remained in the family for 8 generations and family plans are underway to develop it as an educational and cultural center.

A Day of Catching Up

Patrice L. Jeppson, Ph.D. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

Today I am digging into the ‘middens’ covering my desk in my home office. In other words, tackling the pile of ‘things needing to be done’ that got sidelined during a heavy teaching load this past spring. First thing I did was organize materials dating back to my Ph.D. dissertation research days. I’ve been gathering slides and papers about that research for scanning so that I can send the information on to a postgraduate student studying at the University of South Africa. This student is researching metal and glass found at several archaeological sites that I worked on in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa – a Methodist mission station, a British fort, a hinterland (British) settler fortified farm, and a town dump site. I am very excited about her project and look forward to seeing what she discovers. I have been promising this material for months but have not had time to get to it.

I next compiled a list of conference papers, publications, courses, and public presentations related to a recently completed National Science Foundation grant. This list was requested by a cultural resource manager at Independence National Historical Park, here in Philadelphia where I live. The park is doing one of its periodic updates of research implications — exhibits, publications, presentations — related to excavations at the site of the National Constitution Center (NCC) in Independence NHP. The grant research, a computational archaeology study based at Drexel University, made use of a ceramic assemblage recovered from the site of the NCC. I have been trying to keep the park and its archive up to date with titles, and if possible, copies of reported findings resulting from our work with their collections. The senior researcher publications are easy to find and forward but I’ve been behind in getting copies of the various undergraduate student research papers and posters. I also added to the list in my capacity as web master for the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. Our local archaeology society has posted popular write- ups of NCC artifacts as part of its ‘Artifact of the Month’ feature (http://www.phillyarchaeology.net/philly-archaeology/artifactindex/july-2013/, http://phillyarchaeology.org/artifacts/feb2011.htm and http://phillyarchaeology.org/artifacts/may2011.htm). I also added to the list several recent publications based upon my own, long-term research at the park. I research how the public makes use of the park’s archaeological resources overtime for national and other social identity uses.

Lastly, I re-edited a few paragraphs I wrote up yesterday for possible use in a small grant proposal that would provide a small sum of money for a project I recently joined up with. The project involves the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust which is a two-hundred year old property. This property is the oldest privately owned piece of land held in African American hands. My involvement = aims to help make the farm’s important history of free blacks after the American Revolution more widely available. One aim of the Trust is to introduce African American high school females to the non-traditional career choice of heritage preservation. My proposal paragraphs are toward this end, trying to secure some funding to help bring female African American high school students together to learn about archaeology as a career – using archaeology at the Dennis Farm as a case study.

I also corresponded with two colleagues today. I wrote to the President of the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum in regards to a letter I prepared on behalf of PAF for sending to a local Congressman. We are inviting him to visit a local project during his legislative summer recess. The other email came from a colleague who wrote with a links to a student paper on line at StudyMode.com and a YouTube video of a sock puppet play (see the end of this post for the video, both of which deal with the life of James Oronoko Dexter, an early free black resident in Philadelphia whose house site was excavated here in Philadelphia. Also sent, which I was so interested to see, was a liturgical lesson web site (African American Lectionary, a collaborative project of the African American Pulpit and American Baptist College of Nashville) that references an online video short of a feature video about the archaeological search for James Dexter. The video segment, which features multiple archaeologists and historians, is provided as a talking point for the subject of “why the full history of America, positive and negative, is important”. I found the content of these emails very touching. They help prove that our work is worthwhile – and they make the goal of this Day of Archaeology project all that more relevant! They also lead me to do a google key word search for the Dexter site which led me to a term paper on Dexter that is available for sale at one of those college paper mills!

http://youtu.be/giGHz_yAPbk

 

A summer of Archaeology, Animation and Visual Effects

By Justin Wu
Students Tracking Advanced Research Program
Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design
Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA (Posted by the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum webmaster)

I am a freshman studying at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design of Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) with a focus in Animation & Visual Effects. This summer I am participating in Drexel’s STARS (Students Tracking Advanced Research) program, working under Digital Media professor Dr. Glen Muschio to digitally revitalize and recreate archaeological sites for virtual preservation. This is quite the special opportunity for me to explore the digital media realm beyond animated films and video games, and into an important part of American history.

Our focus today is on the Dennis Farm, a historical site that was owned by a free African-American family since 1793 and remains with the Perkins-Dennis family. We are working with Denise Dennis, the 1st child of the 8th generation of the Perkins-Dennis’, archaeologist Dr. Patrice Jeppson, and archaeologist Wade Catts of John Milner Associates (JMA) to acquire information for digital preservation. Today, July 24th, my fellow student researcher, Zachary Stockmal and I analyzed the feature map of the Dennis Farm’s barn, which was provided by McVarish and Catts of JMA, for the scale and proposed layout of the barn. We compared the layout to photographs of the area we took two weeks prior on-site in preparation for accurate digital modeling and restoration. We hope to have a model in progress by the end of the summer.

Betsy Ross’ Pitchers

I have been an archeologist in the U.S. National Park Service for 24 years (can it really be that long?), where I now serve as head of the History Branch at Independence National Historical Park (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). Today, June 27th, I spent several hours working with colleagues preparing a small exhibit commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. This temporary exhibit will feature two ceramic pitchers we recovered in Independence Park during the excavations at the site where the National Constitution Center now stands. The pitchers were found in the bottom of a privy pit (outhouse) that once stood in the backyard
behind the house where Betsy Ross spent her last years.  Did Betsy throw them away?

Pitchers found in the bottom of a privy pit

Made in England between about 1816 and 1820, the pitchers bear images of two War of 1812 naval engagements in which the fledgling U. S. Navy was victorious over the mighty British Navy.  English potteries produced many such designs specifically for  export to the American market. In so doing, they were helping an adversary celebrate a victory over their own navy. I don’t know if they appreciated the irony in that. I do know that they were glad to find a willing market for their goods.  Whatever they meant to the British potters, for Betsy Ross’ family they probably marked the stirrings of national pride sparked by the War.
During the course of the day I also spent time meeting with a colleague from our maintenance staff trying to figure out the safest way to remove an obsolete 1970’s ventilation duct from inside the vault that protects some of the remains of Benjamin Franklin’s house at our in-ground archeology exhibit in Franklin Court. There was yet another meeting today. This last one involved deciding on how the archeologists and the museum curator in the park could best assist a team of faculty and students from Drexel University’s Digital Media program in adding accurate details to a 3D digital reconstruction of the 18th century house in which a African American coachman lived. The reconstruction is base on another site we excavated within the park.…and of course, as every day, there was lots and lots of paperwork to fill out. I do work for the government, after all.

Jed Levin
Independence National Historical Park
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA