WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The Smithsonian Institution says it will turn to 3D printing to share some of the 137 million items in its collections with museums around the United States.
The Smithsonian plans to create a series of 3D-printed models, exhibits, and scientific replicas that will be available for the public to view at locations across the country, CNET.com reported.
In a pilot project, the Smithsonian has created a 3d-printed replica of a Thomas Jefferson statue for the "Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty" exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
A copy of a statue on display at Monticello Thomas Jefferson museum in Virginia, the replica is the "largest 3D printed museum quality historical replica" in the world, the Smithsonian said.
Smithsonian researchers said their goal is to create a "digital surrogate," a "new form of museum collection" that could be available to anyone with a computer, or at the very least, to a wide variety of museums, schools, and other institutions.
Of the 137 million objects in the Smithsonian's various collections, only 2 percent is available for viewing to the people who make their way to Washington, they said.
"If we could leverage the power of 3D to bring a portion of that collection to the world," Adam Metallo, a 3D digitization coordinator at the Smithsonian, said, "that would be incredibly powerful, and definitely worth the expense."