The Smithsonian Introduces 3D Exhibits

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Lisa Winter

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134 The Smithsonian Introduces 3D Exhibits
Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian Institution (SI) is the world’s largest museum complex, with 19 museums and 9 research installations. A basic tenet of visiting most museums is “do not touch the exhibits,” but the Smithsonian, true to their innovative and educational reputation, is changing the rules. SI announced this morning that 3D scans of 20 incredible exhibits are available online, absolutely free. You can explore the items as never before with the ability to rotate, measure, and even explore the internal structure of the models. If you aren’t sure what is significant about each item, there are tours set up to walk you through the finer points. What’s more, you can use these scans to make 3D printed replicas for teaching tools or keepsakes.

These are some of the scientific items currently on display:


Fossil dolphin skull: This is the 6-7 million year old fossilized skull of a new species of dolphin which has not been named yet. It was found near the coast of Panama and could be related to the river dolphins of South America. 

Fossil dolphin jaw: The jaw belongs to the previously mentioned skull, though it was found embedded in rock some time later. 

Fossil whale MPC 684: When constructing a highway in Chile, several whale fossils were discovered. This view does not show the whale reconstructed, but just as it looked when it was recovered by paleontologists. 

Blue crab: While the blue crab used to be common on the East Coast of the United States, their populations have been declining due to overfishing and habitat destruction. 


Embreea orchid: This flower comes from Ecuador and has a bloom over 4 inches wide. Local bees use fragrance from a combination of flowers to attract mates. 

Woolly Mammoth skeleton: This composite mammoth skeleton has been on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Ice Age exhibit since 1966, and the bones were originally found in Alaska. 

Walrus Whale: This curious-looking whale has a face that looks more like a walrus, tusks included, and lived 3-5 million years ago. The fossil was discovered in Peru. 

Wright Flyer (1903): On December 17, 1903, Wilbur Wright made the first successful flight in the flyer he constructed with his brother, Orville. The flight lasted about a minute and it traveled 852 feet (260 m). 


CasA supernova remnant: The center of the exhibit is a neutron star, surrounded by jets and a shockwave from moments after the explosion. 

The 3D gallery is currently in beta mode, which does mean there may be some bugs or glitches and not all of the features may be fully operational yet. The only way for these to get better is to interact with the exhibits and contact the tech support team if you find a problem. 


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  • 3d printing,

  • smithsonian institution,

  • 3d modeling