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Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?

Using laser scanners and high-tech computer software, members of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Digitization Program Office create a digital archive of an entire exhibit.


Conversation Club

  1. This video is filmed during a 3-D scanning excursion in the Dinosaur Hall at the National Museum of Natural History at 9:00 at night (21:00). Why would the staff need to perform this digitization project so late in the evening? What other things might take place in the Museum after it closes to public audiences?
  2. This video explains why having a digital archive will be helpful in planning the new exhibit in the Dinosaur Hall. According to the video, how else might having this digital information be useful to museum curators and research staff? What are other ways that we learn about the past?
  3. In what other ways might digital archives of physical spaces and collections be useful to museums? For instance, can you think of uses for educational outreach? If you could have access to any digitally scanned object from a museum – or anywhere else – what would it be and why?
  4. As part of creating this digital archive, the team uses two different capturing methods: laser scanning and photogrammetry. Why do you think they are using two methods instead of just one?
  5. Adam Metallo, one of the 3-D Program Officers, talks about exhibits from certain historical “eras.” A black and white photo of a previous dinosaur exhibit is shown on screen as an example. How do you think museum exhibits have changed over time? How do you think they might change further in the future? If you have been to a museum, can you describe an exhibit you particularly liked?
  6. The video closes by describing how one day “anyone” might have a 3-D printed dinosaur in his or her living room. What does this mean? How would creating digital scans of dinosaur fossils allow for them to be replicated?
  7. Can you think of other examples where 3-D technology might be particularly helpful? (Hint: why might astronauts find 3-D printing to be a useful tool?)
  8. Museums face challenges when determining the rights and restrictions for use of their digital assets. Do you think that an object has less value if everyone can have a replica of it, or if everyone can just see it online? How might easy, online access to museum objects help that museum?

Video Series

This video exists as part of a series gathered around the theme of Environment & STEM. Other videos in this series are listed below.

Best Views of the Grand Canyon
Best Views of the Grand Canyon
Visualizing One Earth
Visualizing One Earth
Can We Solve Climate Change?
Can We Solve Climate Change?
Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough
Jack Andraka's Pancreatic Cancer Breakthrough
Pardis Sabeti's New Look at Infectious Disease
Pardis Sabeti's New Look at Infectious Disease
Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future
Hugh Herr’s Bionic Future
Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?
Why Scan a 3-D Dinosaur?
Can Ocean Optimism Save our Seas?
Can Ocean Optimism Save our Seas?
What is the Future of Nature?
What is the Future of Nature?