How Digital Fabrication Is Advancing Museum-based Science

For the past few week’s I’ve been teasing the TinyTRs (formerly known as TinyTeddys).

Working with MakerBot, we’ll be giving out free TinyTRs this Saturday to the first 2,000 visitors at our annual Identification Day.

But to be honest, that’s just the tease. Yes, TinyTR is awesome, and I think everyone should have one. But what’s so great about this Saturday (from 12-4) is I.D. Day.

I.D. Day is amazing:



And yes, it’s cool to get to bring in objects and meet with scientists who can tell you if what you brought in is, say, a 5,000-year-old stone spear point from Morocco (yup – really happened). But the coolest part is the scientists. At I.D. Day you get to meet the people behind the scenes: the scientists who go on the expeditions, and do the research, and write the publications which form the basis of so much of what the public enjoys in the exhibition halls. Before I worked here I had no idea we had MORE THAN 200! (Yes, I am still amazed).

And this year, for the first time, you can hear up-close and personal how digital fabrication is being used by scientists. No, not usually to 3D print objects (although they sometimes do) but by scanning bones to plot evolutionary changes, or reveal fragile fossils within a matrix, or invert the empty space in a skull to speculate the shape of a brain. There are 3D scanners ALL over the museum, in scientist labs left and right – and this time, at this year’s I.D. Day, the Museum is promoting these digital tools of science to the public.

So come this Saturday and meet the scientists (and Microscopy and Imagining Department) who are using the tools of digital fabrication to advance scientific knowledge.  TinyTeddy Campaign-1And yes, you might as well pick up your own TinyTr while you’re at it.

Where to find your Digital Fabrication-enabled scientists (just follow the bouncing TinyTR...)

Where to find your Digital Fabrication-enabled scientists (just follow the TinyTR…)

ADDENDUM (5/9/14):

The New York Times wrote a lovely advance piece on I.D. Day which included this part about the digital fabrication components:

Though Identification Day has been going on for nearly three decades, this is the first year that the staff will have a 3-D printer there to scan the specimens. Owners will be given a digital copy, and, with their permission, a photo will be posted online.

What the NYTimes did not mention is that the 3D file will ALSO be posted online!

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 4.35.35 PMOkay, one more image (by Alexis Finch, who in fact inspired much of this):

About Barry

The Associate Director For Digital Learning, Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History.
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