St. Olaf College | News

Students to present research at Metropolitan Museum of Art

Two students working in an excavation trench at a dig site
Letitia (Claire) Mumford ’18 (right) and Jackson Hubler-Dayton ’17 work in an excavation trench at a dig site in Antiochia ad Cragum as part of a St. Olaf program led by Professor of History and Ancient Studies Tim Howe.

Four St. Olaf College students will present their archaeological research at a symposium on photogrammetry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City March 7-8.

Letitia (Claire) Mumford ’18, Marja Ronnholm-Howland ’17, Jackson Hubler-Dayton ’17, and Anders Cologne ’17 are the only undergraduate students invited by Cultural Heritage Imaging, which is partnering with the Met to present the symposium.

“It is such an honor to be invited as an undergraduate,” says Mumford.

The symposium, titled Illumination of Material Culture, is devoted to Reflectance Transformational Imaging (RTI) and related techniques in computational photography.

RTI is a type of photo capture and processing that constructs the depth of an object by measuring the distance between multiple photos taken of it.

Professor and student work outdoors with instruments
Jackson Hubler-Dayton ’17 and Professor of History and Ancient Studies Tim Howe use RTI at the Jeffers Petroglyphs, a North American indigenous rock-art site older than Stonehenge.

“Basically, we take photos of an object with light coming from different angles and then use photo editing to compile the images and learn more about the surface of the object,” says Mumford.

Mumford and the rest of the research term used RTI at St. Olaf’s Archaeological Methods Field School course during the summer of 2015 to read the surfaces of ancient Roman coins in Turkey. This summer, they will apply the method at the Jeffers Petroglyphs, a North American indigenous rock-art site located in southwestern Minnesota.

This new Archaeological Methods Field School course, taught by Professor of History and Ancient Studies Tim Howe, provides an opportunity for the students to “analyze the site by finding new patterns and drawing connections between symbols that may not be visible to the naked eye,” says Ronnholm-Howland.

Mumford says, “The symposium offers a unique opportunity to consult professionals from all over the country in order to enhance our course with state-of-the-art technologies as well as photogrammetry capture and processing techniques.”

Three students working at a dig site
Anders Cologne ’17 (center) and Marja Ronnholm-Howland ’17 (left) work at a dig site in Turkey as part of a St. Olaf archaeology program.

“I’m most excited to hear from other experts — we truly are learning from the best, which will enhance our field school so much more,” Mumford goes on.

Ronnholm-Howland agrees: “I’m really looking forward to talking to specialists about what they do. I’m also really excited to see how an academic conference like this functions, since this will be my first.”

For both Ronnholm-Howland and Mumford, the research and the upcoming symposium — which will bring together conservators and humanities collections professionals, photographers, curators, archivists, imaging experts, researchers, and technology experts — represent a significant step in their studies at St. Olaf.

Ronnholm-Howland, who is studying history and music, says that the research “goes well with my previous archaeological experience and my general interest in material culture.”

Student excavates buried object
Letitia (Claire) Mumford ’18 in mid-excavation at an archaeological field school in Sovana, Italy.

“I’m considering going into museum law or cultural properties law, which I think directly relates to our research,” she says. “And I’m hoping this symposium will give me the practical experience I’m looking for and help me figure out where my own interest in legal and ethical questions fits in.”

Mumford is a sociology/anthropology and French major with a concentration in management studies. Independently, she studies ancient and medieval archaeology and has participated in four field schools and internships during her time at St. Olaf.

This past January, Mumford presented research conducted at the Roman site of La Biagiola in Tuscany, Italy at the Annual Meetings of the Archaeological Institute of America in Toronto. She was one of only two undergraduates invited to participate in the poster session, which featured presenters from leading research universities from all over the world.

“This was an incredible opportunity to present my individual research, as well as learn from others and see their research and techniques,” she says.

Mumford says, “I hope to work either in field excavations following graduation or in a museum setting in collections management, database management, or curation. Eventually, I plan to attend graduate school to pursue archaeology and museum studies.”