Online exhibition shows rare coins in 3D

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16 October 2019
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The Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection have created 3D models of eighty coins, some of which are now available to view online.

The project, which was in partnership with the institution’s Digitization Program Office, showcases a range of East Asian coins, which were chosen due to their ‘diversity and the technical challenges the collection presents’, such as their small size, reflective surfaces, and low relief engraving. 

Writing on the Smithsonian website, Hillery York, of the National Museum of American History, said:

‘The sample chosen illustrates a variety of distinct coin traditions and represented many of the coins unique to our collection. Through the use of innovative digitization techniques, the NNC is able to provide high resolution 3D models of numismatic objects to the public through the Smithsonian’s online 3D model explorer, making them accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

'This interactive program is enhanced by curatorial tools that create virtual tours and other shared experiences around the objects. As new digital technologies develop, they provide opportunities for collaboration and are positioned to bring numismatic material to the forefront of 21st century audiences.’

The project uses a metrology grade 3D scanning tool and automated small-scale object photogrammetry to capture the coins, and allows visitors to the website to move the coin to view both sides and the edge in 3D format.

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Hillery York added:

‘With coins on the docket as small as 3 cm across, these are some of the smallest objects the DPO has attempted to scan using these techniques.’

Visit the website and see the coins at: https://3d.si.edu/browser