The Smithsonian has released a treasure trove of images and 3D scans
The world's largest museum has released a treasure trove of nearly three million images for free use, including 3D scans. That means you can now 3D-print yourself a range of the Smithsonian's historically significant artefacts, or put them into games or virtual reality spaces.
Releasing a massive motherlode of content under Creative Commons 0 (CC0) - "no rights reserved," means that absolutely anyone is free to use this stuff in any way they like. So if you want to print yourself a scale copy of the command module of the Apollo 11 that Armstrong and Aldrin rode to the moon in 1969, go ahead. It's all there, scanned in its full 8'11" x 12'10" (2.72 x 3.91 meter) size. There's even a full scan of the interior.
Likewise, if you've a hankering for an Abraham Lincoln face mask, you could print yourself one that was cast off the very man's face. There are dinosaur skeletons. There are megalodon teeth. There are statues and fossils. There's a model of the Wright Flyer in which Orville Wright made the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903, as well as the Bell X-1 that Chuck Yeager flew as he became the first man to fly faster than sound.
All have been scanned at high resolution and full size, making for a pretty extraordinary resource. Why are they doing this? Well, since its inception in 1846, the Smithsonian's mission has been "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." What better way to diffuse knowledge than digitally, in formats that let people get up close and personal with it?
The 3D scans form a small part of the 2.8 million-odd images that have now been released, and while this project will continue to release more and more content over time, not everything will be made available under the CC0 license. Some things are copyright. Others have been deemed "culturally sensitive," or trademarked. But the Smithsonian team says it's planning to make as many of its assets available as possible.
We've put a few images in the gallery, but for the motherlode itself, you'll have to dig into the Smithsonian's Open Access project.