Smithsonian uses 3D printing to share its exhibits

The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.has over 137 million artefacts in its collection but only two per cent are exhibited to the public at any one time. Now, the organisation hopes to make more available by sharing its objects with other museums – or at least 3D-printed copies.

One prominent exhibit is a 3D-printed statue of Thomas Jefferson recently installed at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, also in Washington, D.C., which is actually a replica of one on display at the Monticello Thomas Jefferson museum in Virginia.

The statue was created by a team of 3D digitisers working at the Smithsonian, who used a laser scanner to create a detailed model of the statue before 3D printing it in four parts. They then painted the assembled model to closely resemble the original bronze statue.

Of course, it does make you wonder whether museum-goers will accept viewing a replica instead of the real thing – after all, few people would bother visiting an art gallery that only displayed photographs of famous artworks. 

Sources :

  1. Newscientist
  2. Picture

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