866-386-6110 makercommons@psu.edu

Smithsonian X 3D: The Collection Extended

The Smithsonian’s X 3D digitization program has been transforming this venerable institution’s extensive collections and on-going scientific projects into a globally accessible library of wildly accurate, online 3D models. From microscopic organisms to mastodons, precious gems to entire caves, historic furnishings to aerospace breakthroughs and so much more, the initiative is bringing incredibly detailed, printable recreations of a wide range of scientifically and culturally significant objects to the web via 3d.si.edu. Not only does this extend the reach of the collection to virtual visitors from around the world, it also makes accessible materials for researchers and scholars both outside – and on different teams within – The Smithsonian, helping to push our understanding of the world forward.

Assignment Idea: Guest Curator


This concept of 3D capture and printing is bringing iconic artifacts to a worldwide audience – an audience which includes many who may never have the opportunity to view these in person. What would you think of having access to a 3D, digitized version of the Columbia command module from the Apollo 11 mission right on your mobile device? What about downloading and printing your own Columbia? The sky’s really the limit at the Smithsonian. Since there are millions of artifacts within its collections, the Smithsonian has many possibilities for what goes online next. What would you prioritize if you were asked to join the X 3D team?

Subject Areas

Architecture, Art History, Sciences, World History


  • select an artifact that has been digitized and write a blog post on its background and your impressions of the digital model
  • 3D print the model (optional)
  • choose an artifact that has not been digiitzed and write a blog post about why you would make it next in the queue
  • create a 2D sketch of your artifact (optional)
  • present an overview of objects to class, highlighting the significance of each and ways that their digital representations would aid understanding and access