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Playing around in 3D museums from Smithsonian and Google

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 1.47.58 PMLately the digital galleries we visit have gotten a little more real.  3D scanned images allow us to get really up close and personal and around every bend.

Recently launched, Smithsonian X 3D presents a variety of 3D collections. The objects are viewed in the sophisticated Explorer browser that allows incredible opportunities to manipulate, measure, adjust color and light and draw on images. Users may also take hotspot tours.

On the About page, Günter Waibel, Director of the Digitization Program Office, the hub of the 3D effort for all 19 Smithsonian museums, 9 research centers and the National Zoo, explains their value to education, pointing to newly available 3D data, as well as applications for 3D printing:

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. 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. All of these uses cases are accessible through the Beta Smithsonian X 3D Explorer, as well as videos documenting the project. For many of the 3D models, raw data can be downloaded to support further inquiry and 3D printing.

Waibel and his team sees these digitization efforts as a way to bring the hidden 99% of the vast Smithsonian collections into virtual light for the world.

Happily, these 3D artifacts are also embeddable on any website allowing us to create our own galleries with our own learning contexts.  (Okay, so I can’t seem to embed here, but check out Amelia Earhart’s Flight Suit anyway.)

Get a taste of the possibilities of the 3D viewer by examining the varied objects in this collection teaser.

And there’s more.

Recently the already fabulous Google Cultural Institute began to share more than 300 scanned 3D images in its own in-browser 3D viewer.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 2.15.45 PM

Pilot partners for the Google project include: California Academy of Science (with a collection particularly heavy in sculls), Museo d’Arte Orientale, Israel Museum Kunsthistorische Museum Vienna, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Dallas Museum of Art.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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