May 18, 2022

Digitization: Smithsonian Turns to 3D to Bring Collection to the World

From CNET:

A new effort under way at the world’s largest museum and research institution could eventually mean more of its 137 million objects will be publicly available, even if just via 3D digital models.


CNET has learned that the Smithsonian has a new initiative to create a series of 3D-printed models, exhibits, and scientific replicas–as well as to generate a new digital archive of 3D models of many of the physical objects in its collection.


According to Adam Metallo, a 3D digitization coordinator at the Smithsonian, the team working on the Jefferson replica project decided that rather than use a traditional method involving rubber molding and casting, they would utilize modern technologies. Taking a Minolta laser scanner worth well up to $100,000 along, they contracted with Studio EIS to generate an intricately detailed 3D model of the statue that was then turned into the 3D printed replica by RedEye on Demand.

Now, with that high-end scanner, as well as less expensive tools that include normal digital cameras and freely available cloud-based digitization software, Metallo and his fellow 3D digitization coordinator Vince Rossi are slowly setting out to begin building a new Smithsonian digital archive. They hope this initiative will eventually lead to scores of 3D printed exhibits, as well as countless 3D models that could theoretically be used in the museums, in schools, or just about anywhere people have an interest in the Smithsonian’s vast physical holdings.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.