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I'll Help you remember: Make memories, preserve Memories Kayla Olson

The maker

I am happy to have been able to base this project on my good friend, Celine.

We met a few years ago in a Digital Humanities (DH) class at Florida State University. She was already an FSU alum and was in the middle of a dual-masters in Computational Science and DH. I felt like a fish out of water-- I was finally escaping the dusty department basement in the neighboring Classics building for the first time since I had started my own MA. Everyone in class was a stranger, but Celine knew the ropes and helped me integrate into a world I had only glanced into before.

I greatly overestimated my technological abilities, and the first thing I thought about when being introduced to "Raspberry Pi" was what desserts had to do with anything. I left the course understanding digital humanists, and recognized that I was satisfied enough watching people like Celine make wonderful things. Below is still my expression to this day every time I watch her navigate R for me, or watch her assemble her own 3D printer.

Celine is experienced in photogrammetry--the process of replicating physical objects and spaces through photography. She has also worked with datamining, and she codes with Python and R. She also 3D prints for fun, and she is passionate about how 3D scanning can help supplement preservation for cultural heritage institutions like museums. Observe! Can you guess what this holds?

The Book

When brainstorming for my book upcycle, I wanted to keep Celine's focus on cultural heritage--and moreover preserving cultural memory--in mind. I landed on the theme of tool-making and tool-use, and how the efforts, memories, and insights of past and present makers are so often lost in exchange for the final product they create. So often do patrons or customers expect products (e.g. a 3D scan, a print, a piece of art, a tool they will use) without giving much thought to who put in the effort to bring it to them. Of course it is difficult to reconstruct the cultural memory of makers in the past, and many scholars do not even bother to try. But it is almost as difficult to record and appreciate those memories of current makers and their trials in the present, just for the sake of appreciation, respect, and love.

An ongoing theme of this project for me was working solely with what I had, so the physical book is the only thing I went out of my way to buy. I thrifted a copy of "The Mammoth Hunters" by Jean M. Auel. Aside from the cover, I know little about it beyond that it is a prehistoric romance novel set in Europe. It was one of the ALA's most challenged books in the 90's for its sexual content. I was more excited about ripping into it because I judged the book by its (dust) cover--it gave me the archaeologist heebie-jeebies.

Celine's scans, incorporating light, and making something new.

Before planning what I was going to do, I already was sure I wanted to incorporate one of Celine's 3D scans. She was kind enough to give me a set of arrow heads to choose from. From there, I was able to import the file into Ultimaker Cura. I did some scaling and basic positioning, and was able to have copies printed, courtesy of Maggie Melo and the Kenan Makerspace.

Maggie mailed me this print--who is a cute little replica? You are!

I knew that I wanted to manipulate light somehow, because Celine's making process uses technologies which harness light and energy in amazing ways. Photogrammetry is photography-based, and cameras direct incoming light-rays. 3D scanning, depending on the type, can use cameras to capture textures, but they also can use structured light to help measure specific geometries of objects. When envisioning the user interface when one works in a program like MeshLab or Blender, it occurred to me that I could turn the book into a light-and-shadow box. It was befitting that labor that often goes unrecognized or unappreciated is termed "shadow labor." Despite the sheer amount of amazing work Celine has put into her projects over the years, she has still had to overextend herself in a field that is primarily male and white.

The process

To make the book into a box, I went through some trial-and-error. First, I took the hard way, thinking that I should glue individual pages together. This was tedious, and it didn't work. At this point I realized that maybe I should not re-invent all of the wheels, so I did a little searching. I had some tacky craft glue left over and some old makeup brushes (I am not a painter and thus, do not have paint brushes), which I used to glue around the edges of pages all at once. This was much more effective. After it dried, I took an X-Acto Knife and went to town, removing pages from the center as best as I could.

Before doing some paper-work, I realized that I did not have framing that could separate different layers of paper, thus giving the box enough depth to create a scene with a light in the back which could shine through. There are apparently Styrofoam frames that you can buy for this purpose, but I had some old Styrofoam from something or other laying around, just waiting to be hacked to pieces for the experience.

Cutting the Styrofoam apart sounded just as awful as you can imagine, but I was pleased enough with what I had.

From here, I was able to then start stacking a few layers of paper that I had removed from the book. I was also able to recycle the back of the dust-cover to use as a base layer, since it already showed a picture of a landscape that I found pretty. Many layers of paper and glue later, and the addition of the 3D print (propped up as to float using a cut round of a paper towel tube), and I had an inlay for the box. If I had more sturdy Styrofoam, and sturdier paper--since the book pages were very thin--I would have added more dimension using more pages.

Unfortunately, with the brunt of the semester smacking me dead in the face, I had to do a little jury-rigging of an LED push-light that I already owned. I would have preferred to have set up a paper circuit using a battery, LEDs, and copper tape. In that case, the inlay would fit snuggly into the box. I could secure it, and then the whole thing could be propped up on a book stand or a shelf for viewing solely from the front. In its current form, however, it is very fragile, and the push-LED is bulky, so it projects out more and would not fair well being handled over time. I also would have included a second LED on the bottom right hand corner, because it is still rather dark when I turn the lights off. The shadows would be more complex with another light source and more depth. Time permitting, I would have also liked to have included a way of viewing Celine's scan through an AR application using a mobile phone, perhaps with a AR code pasted somewhere on the left page.

Lastly, I noticed that the format of the opposite page nearly mirrored the layout of an R window, with numbers running along the side and entries indented within. I decided to sketch in some lines to complete the picture, and then added one more window (visible in the videos) cutout with an arrowhead copy from the Kenan Makerspace that printed incorrectly. I purposely asked them to send me any that did not print properly, because mistakes are an important part of the process. They can be lauded as proof of the process of making and the beautiful efforts therein. Arrowheads especially, when found so many years later, are preserved even in imperfect forms, because mistakes tell us about what efforts and thought go into everything we make.

It all comes together

Below are two videos, one of the book with the lights on (LED off), and one with the lights off (LED on). It was not my intention to have Bob Ross audio playing in the background, but my computer editing software is on the fritz, making stripping the audio a little tedious when his words just so happen to match the end product so nicely.

Created By
Kayla Olson
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