May 17, 2022

New Apps: Smithsonian Brings Historic Specimens to Life in Free “Skin and Bones” Mobile App

A new app (it’s free) from the Smithsonian Institution.

From the Smithsonian:

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History released a new mobile app “Skin and Bones”. The free app is available for download in the App Store and reinvents how visitors to the museum can experience select specimens on view in its historic “Bone Hall,” an exhibit of almost 300 vertebrate skeletons. In the app, 13 different skeletons on display come to life through the advanced technologies of 3-D augmented reality and 3-D tracking. The app adds details to many of the specimens to show how they move or look in life or how their skeletons work.


fter installing the app on their mobile devices, users simply choose the animal they are interested in from a map of the hall. Each animal choice has a menu of immersive audiovisual experiences, including videos, animations and activities. When users choose a menu item marked with ‘AR,’ they direct their cameras at the specimen and the augmented reality triggers 3-D graphics. Visitors can watch an eastern diamondback rattlesnake skull sink its long fangs into a virtual rodent or play a game that challenges them to identify bat species by their calls. Other videos explain ideas in ecology, biogeography, functional anatomy and evolution or introduce Smithsonian scientists. Free Wi-Fi in the “Bone Hall” will allow visitors to seamlessly experiment with each of these features.

“Skin and Bones” took two years to develop and was made possible with a grant from Booz Allen Hamilton. The 3-D modeling work took place at the museum. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was instrumental in developing the supporting animations.

Read the Complete App Launch Announcement

Download the App: Direct to iTunes App Store

See Also: Videos used in the app are also available on YouTube

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.