New Castle News

November 14, 2013

Our Opinion: Program will give Americans more insight into their culture

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The information available on the Internet is nothing short of astonishing.

Of course, a fair amount of it consists of little more than trivial nonsense, celebrity gossip and a seemingly endless stream of cat videos. So we are pleased to learn of a plan to expand the Internet into a truly educational arena.

Imagine having access to all the objects possessed by the Smithsonian Institution. That would be 137 million items, give or take a couple. This would include priceless art objects, fossils and historical memorabilia.

But right now, unless you have access to a Smithsonian facility — many of which are in Washington, D.C. — viewing these items is problematical. And even then, many are in storage, unavailable to the general public.

Although in its infancy, a new program by the Smithsonian may soon dramatically expand access to its exhibits. The latest technology, including 3D printing, is being employed to allow Americans greater insight into their nation’s history and culture.

The Smithsonian is in the process of creating 3D scans and models of some of its most significant pieces, such as the Wright brothers’ first airplane. The goal is to give individuals access online, not merely to examine such artifacts in ways not now available, but to even give them the opportunity to produce their own versions via 3D printing technology.

Smithsonian officials eventually are looking to provide 2D and 3D imaging for roughly 13 million objects. That’s a far cry from the total held by the government, but it would mean a dramatic expansion of online access.

Of course, schools are seen as among the prime beneficiaries of this program. Educational institutions would have greater access to 3D technology than the average household. What the Smithsonian is creating will inevitably allow for richer educational opportunities for students in various areas of study.

In a way, this effort by the Smithsonian stands as a symbol of the promise the Internet holds. While the World Wide Web is a mixed bag in terms of what it contains, ideally it creates the opportunity to share valuable information and provide enlightenment for all, regardless of income levels.

And we firmly believe all Americans would benefit from having a broader experience with their nation’s history and culture. The Smithsonian houses objects and ideas that serve to unify the country in ways that are not always apparent.

We strongly support this educational endeavor.