Smithsonian Institution Website

Digitization Program Office

A Showcase for Digitization Projects at the Smithsonian

Digitization Fair Exhibits

2017 Smithsonian Digitization Fair
October 18th and 19th
Washington, DC


S. Dillon Ripley Center 
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW
Concourse, Sublevel 3

The Digitization Fair Exhibits will be an opportunity for visitors to learn about Smithsonian digitization projects that demonstrate Impact.

The Exhibits will be open to the general public (no event registration required to attend Exhibits) as well as to event attendees Wednesday, October 18th and Thursday, October 19th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM EDT, so please drop by!




OCIO and SI Units

Smithsonian Transcription Center

The Smithsonian Transcription Center (TC) creates indexed, searchable text by means of crowdsourcing. The service supports varying data needs from 19 archives, museums, and libraries, and has deepened engagement with the public since its launch in June 2013. The program creates extended engagement with digitized collections - quantified by over 14 minutes average visit time and qualified by daily testimonials from volunteers in social media and feedback email. The Smithsonian Transcription Center can be visited at  It is a project from the Smithsonian Institution Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).


Smithsonian Learning Lab

The Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access (SCLDA) created the Smithsonian Learning Lab to inspire the discovery and creative use of its rich digital materials—more than a million images, recordings, and texts. By encouraging users to create and share personalized collections of Smithsonian assets and user-generated resources, the Learning Lab aspires to build a global community of learners who are passionate about adding to and bringing to light new knowledge, ideas, and insight.


Freer|Sackler 3D Digitization and Printing

Freer|Sackler's (FSG) Imaging and Photographic department will showcase our unit 3D printing efforts using our digitized collection from DPO and in-house digitization. We are going to demonstrate live 3D printing using two 3D printers in two different materials. Ember from Autodesk with Prototyping Resin and Prusa i3 MK2 with PLA and wood filament material. In addition, we will showcase our in-house 3D digitization efforts using photogrammetry method.

NMNH Department of Botany

Digitization Impacts on Herbarium Collections Management

In 2014, the United States Herbarium had 40+ years of digitization to be proud of, resulting in 1.5 million specimen records in our data catalog. However, with 3.5 million pressed specimen sheets in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) collection, we needed a faster and more efficient method to digitize our specimens. The Digitization Program Office helped us solve this problem by employing a digitization conveyor belt to image our specimens. In 16 months, we have digitized nearly 1 million plant specimens. A surprise result of this project is the considerable number of ways in which herbarium collections management benefits from the project.


360° immersive multi-image HTML-5

Over the past year, the Collections Department of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) has been developing a multi-image compositing technique for 360° imaging. This process was developed to document, with high resolution photography, the cockpits and interiors of aircraft. We’ve been working towards automated capture and enhanced post-processing with commercially available software. The result is a product which is formatted in HTML-5, so it is viewable on multiple operating systems and a wide range of devices. We have developed processes to incorporate additional information about the features of the aircraft into these images, to further facilitate the understanding of the artifact.


The Great Migration

The Great Migration is a public digitization program of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). This public program will invite visitors to bring their home movies into the museum and have them inspected and digitally scanned by NMAAHC staff. The program will not only highlight our ongoing film and video preservation efforts at the museum, but also open up the door to a broader conversation surrounding the often marginalized histories that exist within the African American community. Through our efforts, we hope to expose the public to the various experiences of the African American community, while simultaneously communicating how these experiences contribute to American history overall.

NMNH Department of Anthropology

Circumpolar Ethnology Imaging

The National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) Circumpolar Ethnology Imaging Project has imaged 6,000 cultural objects from the Arctic and Subarctic regions to date. The products of this project facilitate programs such as the Inuvialuit Living History site, Recovering Voices, Breath of Life, and routine repatriation efforts, which work to empower indigenous groups to reconnect with their collections. For museum anthropologists working in digitization, access and impact are not dissociable results.


Project PHAEDRA: Preserving Harvard's Early Research and Data in Astronomy

Recently, research material originally produced during the mid-to-late 19th century and early 20th century by researchers at the Harvard College Observatory was re-discovered. The material represents the history of the Harvard College Observatory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, showing the evolution of observation methods and early astronomy. In order to showcase these early researchers' work, engage the community with the collection's contents, and to enable research on early astronomy for future generations, the Wolbach Library is partnering with the Smithsonian Transcription Center, Harvard Library, and the NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) to digitize, transcribe, and fully index these works for the public in ADS.

NMNH Department of Anthropology

Digitizing the Archives: Language Revitalization Today

Tribes across America are capitalizing on the increasing availability of digital resources such as those sponsored by Recovering Voices. Since 2011 more than 3000 pages of archival documents have been digitized, directly impacting more than 128 communities across the US and Canada through the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages. As a result of a 3-year grant from the Arcadia Foundation to the National Anthropological Archives (NAA), over 1 million pages of archival pages, 4,000 ethnographic sound recordings and over 65,000 pages of Indigenous linguistic material have been made accessible to tribes across the world. These resources are revolutionizing the way language and knowledge revitalization is being undertaken. Drawing on the experiences of 3 specific communities, Recovering Voices will highlight the critical difference digitization is making for language revitalization efforts today.


Increasing accessibility and understanding for audiences, including the visually impaired

The Smithsonian Institution Exhibits (SIE) 3D models of groves / audio impressions project with NMAH and Karl Haber of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The fossil walrus tusks, NMNH. The Paraphronima model collaborator was Karen Osborn, NMNH. The Camptosaurus skull collaborator was Matthew Carrano of NMNH, giving Carolyn guidance on how to morph the adult skull into a juvenile correctly.


A Global Registry for Scientific Collections: Striking a Balance between Disciplinary Detail and Interdisciplinary Discoverability

The Global Registry of Scientific Collections (GRSciColl; is an online information resource developed at the Smithsonian to digitally gather and disseminate information on scientific collections. Building on initiatives started for biological collections (, GRSciColl expands this framework to encompass all scientific disciplines. The goals of GRSciColl are to (1) provide a single source of synoptic information about the collections, their institutions, and staff; and (2) facilitate the assignment of identifiers that are unique across all disciplines. The impact of this effort is illustrated through the ease at which collections can be discovered by researchers from across disciplines, including collections that are small, underfunded, closed, moved, etc.


Applying deep machine learning to digitized museum specimens

While the Smithsonian Institution has a long history of building physical collections, more recently, researchers and staff have also been generating large digital collections, such as images from mass digitization efforts, DNA sequences from genomics, and data from ecological sensors. Given the large amount of data being generated from these efforts, the Office of Research Information Services (ORIS) has established a new effort in data science. In a collaboration among the Department of Botany (NMNH), the Digitization Program Office (DPO), ORIS, and industry partners like NVIDIA, we are using deep machine learning to automatically characterize digitized herbarium sheets. Our pilot project is focused on the automatic identification of herbarium sheets that have been contaminated with mercury during the preservation process. The automatic identification of contaminated sheets will expedite mercury remediation in the NMNH herbarium. Our tool also has the potential to be used by herbaria around the world. We hope that the success of this pilot project will encourage subsequent projects in deep machine learning, potentially revolutionizing our understanding of large digital museum collections.