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Smithsonian starts 3D scanning its artifacts

Posting in Technology

The future of the museum is setting up to be a lot more interactive and global.

That's because the Smithsonian Institute, the world's largest museum and research complex, is now embracing 3D technology that is allowing it to scan its artifacts and share those digital renderings with the world. Not only will researchers be able to see important objects (and even archaeological sites) in 3D from their computer, but they will also be able to use a 3D printer to replicate the objects on site.

Smithsonian launched the initiative, called the Smithsonian X 3D explorer, with the help of Autodesk and currently has artifacts -- from Abraham Lincoln's face cast to Amelia Earhart's flight suit to a woolly mammoth skeleton -- available for anyone to view from different angles, take measurements, adjust the lighting and color, and, of course, print.

Now there's more of a possibility that the 137 million artifacts at the Smithsonian -- most of which are behind closed doors -- can be made accessible to everyone. That has good implications for science, education, researchers, and the average curious person. But there's a long way to go. Currently, there are only about 20 objects that have been scanned.

Here's more: 


— By on November 18, 2013, 1:21 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure