A new initiative from the Digital Humanities Research Hub (DHRH) is helping students and humanities researchers understand how they might consider applying 3D technologies to their research.
Located in the School of Advanced Study at Senate House, the MakerSpace provides digital tools, equipment and support for researchers, including two 3D printers, virtual reality headsets, scanners for digitisation, photography equipment, a green screen, and more.
These new tools are providing the necessary infrastructure for a range of exciting new research and teaching opportunities.
For example, researchers in the Hub have made use of the 3D technology to model and print cultural heritage artefacts, such as pottery fragments or scale models of ancient monuments. These models can be easily handled and manipulated, which allows researchers to gain a hands-on understanding of how ancient artefacts might have been used and understood in their time. Such tactile engagement would be impossible with their fragile originals.
Printing in 3D can also support teaching. A 3D-printed miniature printing press, for example, allows students of book history to understand the complete printing lifecycle: from the creation of the press itself, to the design of a printing plate and the actual act of printing on paper.
By pairing new technologies with old processes, staff and students in the Hub can explore different printing techniques, see the results of using different materials, and learn first-hand the impact of changes in the printing process on the page.
The MakerSpace also provides access to a brilliant range of other digital tools that can reveal new insights and open up new research methodologies. For example, “Raspberry Pi” computers – low-cost, credit-card sized computing devices – can allow researchers to run long-term data collection projects, such as gathering social media posts on a certain topic, which can then be analysed further to identify trends.
Michael Donnay, Digital Projects Officer at the Digital Humanities Research Hub, is supporting the day-to-day activities at the MakerSpace, and notes its significance for researchers:
“By giving researchers hands-on experience with equipment and digital tools, the MakerSpace provides the opportunity to explore different research methods before committing to a large-scale project.”
Alongside the immediate research and teaching opportunities the MakerSpace provides, it is hoped that it will demonstrate a new model for lightweight, flexible and reproducible humanities infrastructure, which will enhance the Hub’s ability to support digital humanities research nationally.
Professor Jane Winters, Director of the Digital Humanities Research Hub, comments:
“The Senate House MakerSpace is an ideal venue for knowledge-exchange, experimentation and collaboration. In keeping with the School of Advanced Study’s mission to promote and facilitate humanities research nationally, the space has been designed so that anyone can get involved in digital activities, whatever their level of expertise. It’s a place for conversation and practice, for small projects and big ideas.”
The MakerSpace is currently open to any member of staff in the School of Advanced Study and across the federal University of London. If you would like to use the space, please email Michael Donnay (firstname.lastname@example.org) to reserve a time.