In “Inca and their Ancestors: Andean Objects, Technologies, and Issues of Conservation” a course taught last spring by Alicia Boswell, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Cultures of Conservation, students learned about different ancient Andean cultures and technologies. Weekly discussions surrounded readings from many different fields including archaeology, conservation science, art history, and engineering, as each class was dedicated to understanding a different technology (or at least as much as is understood) from Inca stonework to Paracas textiles. In addition to examining different Andean technologies, Boswell wanted students to have the opportunity to engage in digital curation.

As a class project, students created a digital exhibit of Paracas ceramics (700 BC – AD 1) from the Nathan Cummings collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One of the largest collections of Paracas and Nasca cultures ceramics in the world, it is also one of the oldest collections in the department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (AAOA) at the Met. With assistance from Jesse Merandy, director of the Digital Media Lab, students took photos of select vessels and created digital 3-D models from the photos with a software program called AgiSoft, with varying degrees of success. They also wrote accompanying “wall text” for their models. This digital exhibit can be found at

In addition to creating the digital exhibit, students contributed extended descriptions of their select Paracas vessels to the Met’s online catalog—part of the museum’s public outreach, to make its entire collection available online. One of the initiatives of the department of AAOA is to create online catalog entries for the department’s entire collection. With over thirty-three million visitors to the Met website per year and an increase in web traffic of 17% over the last six months since the Met launched its Open Access Initiative making over 375,000 images available under Creative Commons Zero (CCO), the website is becoming an increasingly significant educational resource. BGC students’ descriptions of Paracas vessels are now available to the public and their contributions are much appreciated by the Department of AAOA.

Course participants included Lolly Burrows, Anne Carlisle, Cristina DeLeon, Emily Field, Sasha Nixon, and Sarah Reetz.

— Alicia Boswell, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Cultures of Conservation