Research & Teaching with Digital Tools

Processing a 3D model in plastic resin of the early medieval baptismal font from Wilne (Derbyshire) on a MakerBot 3D printer in the Boston College Digital Studio

I create 3D models of early medieval baptismal fonts from the alignment of dozens of photographs, a process called photogrammetry. Much of the surviving font evidence reflects a long postmedieval history of Reformation iconoclasm, Victorian restoration, and/or modern repurposing as cattle troughs and garden ornaments. I use photogrammetric modeling to visualize and analyze these objects as medieval men and women would have originally encountered them. Using computer software like Photoscan and 123D Catch, I can reconstruct font iconography from damaged or fragmented examples and digitally restore their often poorly-lit and ex situ placements in the parish church.  

My interest in using digital tools for research originates from my interactions with students. I incorporate a variety of visual images, film clips, and other media in my classes, including a 3D model of a pilgrim's souvenir in one particular assignment. Shortly after my first summer research trip in Yorkshire, I was asked by a colleague how I would teach my interests in premodern material culture to students who have visual impairments. This question challenged me to think about classroom discussions in a new way, and afterward I approached my future research trips with the goal of 3D modeling for both my own study and my current and future students. Providing students with 3D-printed replicas of the objects discussed in class not only introduces them to the things, ideas, and actors of history in a tangible way, but also allows students with visual disabilities to participate fully in the assignments. Integrating digital tools into traditional teaching methods expands the ways students engage the discipline of history. 

Click HERE to view & download these models on Sketchfab

Baptismal Font Survey of North & East Yorkshire

The interactive Google fusion table map above represents a corpus of 146 early medieval baptismal fonts that I surveyed in the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire as part of my 2017 Ph.D. in History, "Living Water, Living Stone: The History and Material Culture of Baptism in Early Medieval England, c. 600 - c. 1200" at Boston College.