Yesterday, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. introduced Smithsonian X 3D, a web portal that allows online visitors to create 3D renderings of some of its historical artifacts.
According to Forbes, the Smithsonian has for months been using 3D scanners and other comparable technology to create 3D models of everything from whale fossils to Abraham Lincoln‘s head to the Wright Brothers‘ flyer.
And now, this technology is open to the public. Using Web GL in a standard online browser, anyone can examine and print 3D versions of almost two dozen historical artifacts from around the world.
Not only is this a huge benefit for anyone who can’t make the trip out to D.C, but it is also tremendously helpful in analyzing the artifacts themselves.
As an on-site digitization of Indonesia‘s Liang Bua cave shows, full excavation along with potentially harmful removal and relocation of prized treasures may no longer be necessary if researchers can obtain all the data they need using 3D technology.
“With only 1% of collections on display in Smithsonian museum galleries, digitization affords the opportunity to bring the remaining 99% of the collection into the virtual light,” said Günter Waibel, Director of the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office.
Waible told Forbes that, if the Smithsonian were to digitize one object every minute, it would take 270 years of nonstop work to capture the museum’s 137 million objects in 3D.