In the summer of 2023, the Digitization Program Office and Smithsonian Gardens collaborated on a project to 3D scan several orchids in support of The Future of Orchids exhibition. The goal was to create 3D printable files for the artist Phaan Howng to use in commissioned works that would be featured in the exhibit, and to tell the stories of selected orchid specimens through guided tours using the Smithsonian’s 3D viewer.
One of the recent mass digitization projects of the Digitization Program Office (DPO) had a particular challenge because we needed to keep track of scientific names. The project was the digitization of more than thirty thousand specimens of bumblebees (genus Bombus) and carpenter bees (genus Xylocopa) from the Entomology Department of the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).
The Digitization Program Office (DPO) supports discovery through digitization. Founded in 2009 as a division of the Smithsonian’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, DPO partners with others to increase the quantity, quality, and impact of digitized Smithsonian collections.
With more than 157.2 million objects and specimens, 2.3 million library volumes, and 148.2 cubic feet of archives, distributed across 21 museums, eight research centers, a zoo, and numerous storage facilities, the scale and diversity of Smithsonian collections present a unique digitization challenge. DPO addresses this challenge by establishing metrics to track digitization progress across the Institution, by digitizing collections using cutting edge technologies combined with high throughput, high quality processes, and by exploring ways to enhance the access, use, and impact of digitized Smithsonian collections.
We feel a great sense of urgency in bringing our collections online. With less than 1% of the collections on display at any one time, our digital collections provide building blocks and entryways to new journeys of discovery.