FROM NDSU TO THE WORLD
Before the digital archive network was born, researchers had to travel to far-flung museums or artifact repositories to conduct research. Today, the digital archive network makes arti- facts accessible via a mouse click and computer screen. At the NDSU Archaeology Technology Lab, artifacts are scanned from all sides with a digital laser scanner and entered into the data- base, enabling users to rotate and view objects from many angles.
Clark draws inspiration from the paradox of using emerging technology to bring alive artifacts from the buried past. “If museums around the world were to digitize their artifacts, you could create a database that any archaeologist could access without leaving his or her computer,” Clark said. “It pulls together a vast amount of data that is actually scattered around the globe. We can’t travel back in time, but using computer applications … we can create this world the way it may have looked … and give you the feeling of being in that time and place.”
The NDSU Archaeology Technology Lab has been featured on CNN, BBC, MSNBC and in the national magazines American Archaeology and Animation Magazine.
A CHILDHOOD DREAM GOES HIGH-TECH
“Archaeology is what I wanted to do since the sixth grade. My career has changed since then, with the technology,” Clark said.
That he is today known for archaeology tech- nology rather than his love of research on the coast of Samoa surprises Clark’s colleagues – and Clark himself. After all, he makes no claim to be the office techie in NDSU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. To be sure, he is quite competent on his office computer on Minard Hall’s fourth floor. Down the street in the Archaeology Technology Lab, he can name every piece of equipment and its uses, but he can operate very few. In fact, his staff – who revere him as a visionary – sniggle and sneak sheepish glances at one another, then finally admit that Clark can’t operate any equipment in the lab except his desktop computer.
And that’s just fine with Clark. His role is to dream, gather grant money and hire computer wizards to enable the operation to soar.
“I do this for the challenge of doing new things,” Clark says, “doing it differently, coming up with new things that other people haven’t done before and the challenge of starting and funding a new project.”
Besides Clark, seven graduate and under- graduate students work in the lab; three are full-time employees whose salaries are paid by grant money, largely from the National Science Foundation, and from proceeds of contract work for firms and historical entities who desire the lab’s expertise. The three full-timers – archaeology graduate students Aaron Bergstrom and Jim Landrum and 3-D cultural architect Doug Snider
have been with the lab since the get-go in
Brian Slator, a computer science profes-
sor, is co-leader on most projects, and William Perrizo, also of computer science, played a role in the beginning of the tech lab’s projects.
With a lab full of “gee-whiz” equipment, Clark has never had to recruit student workers. “They pretty much find me,” he says. Perhaps the lab’s greatest student draw is $200,000 worth of Maya software. Maya software has been used for special effects and animation in movies such as “Shrek,” “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings.”
CONSTRUCTION WITHOUT LUMBER
Snider, the lab’s 3-D cultural architect, spent the better part of 2004 and 2005 building Mandan Indian earth lodges. However, he didn’t move a speck of dirt or a stick of timber. In fact, he didn’t move out of his office chair. But he clicked thousands of computer keys
and voila – earth lodges and the families who
lived in them became the setting and charac- ters for a 3-D movie set at what is now Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park Museum near Mandan, N.D.
Snider’s construction occurs in the “virtual” world, amid a cluster of computers, laser scan- ners, digital visual recorders, projectors and high-tech gadgetry that most people couldn’t identify or dream of operating.
Snider and his colleagues created a 3-D simulation video that allows viewers a virtual tour inside the Mandan tribe’s On-A-Slant earth lodge village. The video was shown during the Circle of Cultures event, Oct. 22-33 in Bismarck