Science Education

Stanford Pilot Project Digitizes Bone Fragments for Classroom Use

The Digital Production Group of Stanford University Libraries has launched a pilot project to produce digital 3D models of bones and other artifacts for use in research and instruction.

Students began using the models recently in a winter course, Zooarchaeology: An Introduction to Faunal Remains, led by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Krish Seetah.

"The ideal situation would be for each one of my students to take an entire skeleton home and study it, but that's just not realistic because of the fragility and limitations of the collection," Seetah said in a Stanford news release. "Before, I used photographs, and two dimensions versus three is a completely different situation."

In Seetah's class, students are required to become familiar enough with the bones of different animals that they can identify them from fragments, as well as identifying marks that indicate trauma the animal experienced. In the most recent class, students were able to pull up models on a tablet or computer screen and look at them from different angles and add annotations to the images.

Stuart Snydman, associate director for digital strategy at Stanford Libraries and leader of the digitization project, said that eventually he hopes to expand the effort and make the models available to researchers and scholars anywhere in the world through the Stanford Digital Repository.

"The 3D model doesn't replace the original, but it gives you a digital surrogate to make analysis, evaluation, instruction on those objects easier both in the classroom and at home," said Snydman in a prepared statement. "Digitization is one way we can not just preserve our heritage and our history but also make these really important objects or works of art available to our students and faculty and researchers in the world at large."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].