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Smithsonian Creates Museum Of The Future

By TJ McCueThursday, September 11, 2014
3D, Digital Prototyping, Scanning, STEM

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It is fairly well known that the Smithsonian only has about one percent (1%) of its collection on display at any one point in time. That means the other 99 percent is resting peacefully in the archives, well protected and preserved, but unseen.

Günter Waibel, Director of the Smithsonian Digitization Program Office, is changing that and along with his team: Vince Rossi, Adam Metallo, and John Blundell, also known as the “Laser Cowboys” – they are laser scanning and digitizing as much of that 99 percent as they possibly can. It is a long road and one that will take more technology and tools than the team currently has on hand. Günter greets us at the door to the under-renovation dinosaur exhibit and welcomes us in – to the T.Rex project where the team is scanning an entire skeleton. One that you’ll be able to download, explore, and 3D print, if you want, via the Smithsonian X 3D site. Even if you do not have a 3D printer, it is worth a digital visit. I have embedded the Killer Whale Hat for you to get an idea of the site's awesome factor.

I’m working on a more detailed post about a Pinniped fossil (shown above) that we had the privilege of getting the first public look. Nick Pyensen walked and talked us around his work and the post will look at way that 3D tech is changing how they work. I'm saving some of the other photos and commentary for that post.

The official word from the Smithsonian X 3D site:

The Digitization Program Office is the hub for the Smithsonian’s inquiry into 3D. We support all 19 museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo in their quest to increase the quantity and quality of Smithsonian digital assets. The Smithsonian digitization challenge and opportunity can be measured by the total number of collection items: at 137 million objects, artworks and specimens, capturing the entire collection at a rate of 1 item per minute would take over 260 years of 24/7 effort. At the present moment, the Smithsonian has prioritized the digitization of about 10% of its collections for digitization. To rise to this challenge, the Digitization Program Office is promoting rapid capture photography workflows for two-dimensional collections, and exploring innovations to speed up the capture of our three-dimensional collections, preferably in 3D.

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