Smithsonian Releases Massive Amount of Digital Data, But Where Are The 3D Models?

By on February 27th, 2020 in models

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 Some of the categories in the Smithsonian’s recent release of digital data [Source: Smithsonian]
Some of the categories in the Smithsonian’s recent release of digital data [Source: Smithsonian]

After my encounter with the Smithsonian’s terrific, albeit small 3D model library, I was quite excited by their announcement this week. 

They have transformed literally millions of artifacts into digital form and placed these assets online! After seeing a mere 124 3D models in their repository the other week, I am eagerly anticipating exploring this new release for hundreds, or maybe thousands more! 

Even better, these assets are being released with the CC0 license, which means they are essentially public domain and can be used for commercial purposes with no requirement for attribution. Excellent! 

The Smithsonian says, however, that not all of their collection is being placed online. There are several very good reasons why, from their FAQ: 

  • The Smithsonian has not yet created a digitized image of or data for an object

  • An object is under copyright

  • An object is subject to contractual restrictions from a donor, lender, or artist

  • An object is culturally sensitive

  • An object is not fully owned by the Smithsonian

  • An asset is in a format not yet incorporated fully on Smithsonian digital collections platforms, such as video and sound recordings

  • An asset is a Smithsonian name or trademark

  • A digital asset created by or on behalf of the Smithsonian as a product is sold or licensed for a fee

That first point is important. It seems that their Open Access program is a work in progress. That makes sense, give the many millions of artifacts in their possession; it would take years to digitize everything. 

Thus I went to their search page to find myself some 3D models. 

I was disappointed again. 

I could not find ANY 3D models in their open collection. Granted, I did not literally search through every entry, as there are around 2.8M of them. However, each randomly selected item seemed to contain only 2D images of the artifact. They’re nice pictures, to be sure, and some even include a color calibration widget to ensure you have the precise coloration.

But no 3D models. 

I re-read their FAQ, which says: 

“Open access applies to digital assets that are created, stored, or maintained by the Smithsonian. This might include text, still images, sound recordings, research datasets, 3D models, collections data, and more.”

 The Smithsonian’s 3D model repository [Source: Smithsonian]
The Smithsonian’s 3D model repository [Source: Smithsonian]

So they could include 3D models. In fact, their “Smithsonian 3D” page does include some 3D models as I had described last week. None of these 3D models seem to appear in the new collection; they seem to be separate repositories. 

On the open access page I thought perhaps there might be a way to filter the search to include only entries with 3D models. However, there is no such option. You can search by name, date and other properties, but nothing is mentioned about 3D models. 

I guess we’ll have to wait longer. 

Via Smithsonian

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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