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December 3, 2013

Smithsonian X 3D: Revolutionizing how we see things

Recently, the Smithsonian unveiled the Smithsonian X 3D Collection and state-of-the-art 3D explorer. The Smithsonian X 3D Collection features objects from the Smithsonian that highlight different applications of 3D capture and printing, as well as digital delivery methods for 3D data in research, education and conservation. It was featured in a Center for the Future of Museums blog last week as well. Will it revolutionize the way we teach? Perhaps one day soon. But right now it’s certainly transforming the way we see the world one amazing object at a time!

I had a chance to explore the new 3D website and it’s definitely worth registering for an account. Getting an up-close look at the Wright flyer or watching a video describing how the scans were completed is worth it alone, and then add on the ‘tours’ for each object and your creative wheels start turning thinking of how you can share this with everyone you know. All objects in the explorer come with comprehensive guided tours. Each tour tells an interesting story about an object of the Smithsonian X 3D Collection. Tours are similar to PowerPoint presentations, but are always “live”. At any time during a tour, you can interact with everything you see in the viewer. It was pretty easy to get a handle on and after clicking around for a while, I had it down and was zooming in and out to look at details in the Wright flyer.

 

The coolest thing for Affiliates is the potential in the Educators section. In order to make our 137 million object collection more accessible, the 3D team came up with these teachable objects for everyone to explore. Some of our Affiliates are already using 3D technology for educational purposes. In fact, Dr. Herbert Maschner, Director of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, an Affiliate in Pocatello, Idaho, was a panelist in the recent symposium at the Smithsonian. He spoke about his museum’s work in “democratizing science,” scanning collections all over the world, resulting in data sets which can be used by researchers in a variety of disciplines.  The scans result in 3D or electronic files which can now be accessed from anywhere- even by teachers in classrooms, tying the subject matter into school curricula.

One of our National Outreach Managers, Laura Hansen, was able to attend the Smithsonian X 3D conference and said,

“This technology represents a wonderful opportunity for museums.  Models resulting from high resolution scans and printed on a 3D printer can give visitors and students access to objects in unprecedented ways.  Want to study mathematics? How about a scale model of the Parthenon to inspire students?  Wish you could handle a fragile fossil bone to see how an animal moved?  These scans and printed objects can help us think about collections in new ways, making museums repositories of information from the past that can literally shape our future.”

So take some time and explore the new Smithsonian X 3D Collection.  Just another idea from your friends at Smithsonian Affiliations to bring the Smithsonian to your neighborhood!

 

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