The Smithsonian museum owns millions of artifacts, but only a small percentage of its items are able to be displayed to the public at one time. In order to increase availability of its exhibits, some innovative ideas are being tried — with the help of 3D printing technology. Adam Metallo and Vince Rossi of the Smithsonian have begun a project to create replicas of important objects that can be put on display without having to move the original.
Thomas Jefferson has the honor of being the first full size 3D replica to go on display. Using advanced scanning and printing technology, a statue which is housed at Jefferson’s Monticello museum in Virginia was copied and is now on display at the “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty” exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Jefferson replica is part of a pilot program which the Smithsonian hopes to develop in order to bring open up its collection and bring it closer to the public. With this kind of technology one could imagine students and teachers at schools and universities accessing a digital archive of Smithsonian objects online and printing them out with 3-D printers in order to study them in depth.
Here’s a video from Mashable that shows the Jefferson model