The Smithsonian Museum has been 3D scanning many of the objects in its collection. The digitization of museum collections has become quite a trend in recent years, and a good one at that.
But the Smithsonian is going beyond just making digital copies for preservation, it's now making the 3D models it got from scanning available to the public.
The organization is introducing the Smithsonian X 3D, a new online resource to house and share some of the models the museum has amassed recently.
The site enables visitors to browse and view the 3D models in the browser, but also to export the models to view on their computer or even print out.
The new site is part of a larger initiative at the Smithsonian to digitize its huge collection. With 137 million objects, artwork, and specimens in custody, it's a daunting task. This why the digitization team is only focusing on some 10 percent of the collection, though even that is a challenge.
The 3D scanning effort goes beyond just making copies of its existing objects though, but the technology has a lot of promise for museums and researchers.
"These projects indicate that this new technology has the potential not only to support the Smithsonian mission, but to transform museum core functions. Researchers working in the field may not come back with specimens, but with 3D data documenting a site or a find," the Smithsonian explained.
"Curators and educators can use 3D data as the scaffolding to tell stories or send students on a quest of discovery. Conservators can benchmark today’s condition state of a collection item against a past state – a deviation analysis of 3D data will tell them exactly what changes have occurred," it added.
Considering that just about one percent of the Smithsonian's collection is exhibited at any given time, 3D scanning opens up the opportunity for a lot more of it to become available online.