Scan the World

Create your own 3D digital museum and learn how you can help preserve cultural artifacts.

3D models and 3D printing can have uses beyond just creating small action figures for your home. One perfect example is the Scan the World project. Started in 2014, they are using these technologies to help to preserve culture, as well as help kids in classrooms be able to have a physical connection to the things they are learning about. Scan the World gives people the chance to experience representations of artifacts in a tangible way through the use of 3D printing. For people who would like to see important historical objects in person but cannot travel to go see them, Scan the World lets users go online, search for the object they want to see and freely download the model of the item. 3D printing then allows for these shapes to be built up layer by layer, creating a small model of the item.

Using 3D scanning technology and the help of people around the world just like you, 3D models of statues and artifacts are being created for this program. 3D scanning allows people to turn objects into 3D models that can be replicated through 3D printing, or examined on the computer.

To date, there have been over 7,500 models created that you can find online. Every object added to the Scan the World library comes from scanned data composed of a series of around 50 overlapping photographs. Most of the photos are taken from a distance away encompassing the whole item or sculpture, while some are up close showing the small details that the items can have. Objects in the Scan the World library range from the Statue of Liberty to the Rosetta Stone to the large heads on Easter Island. Scan the World has become a community built platform and encourages people to get involved in different ways.

You can be a part of this mission to bring history into the computer and keep the art and artifacts alive forever. This project is hosted on the website MyMiniFactory, a website aimed at offering high quality 3D models. One of the easiest ways to participate is to create a scan of a sculpture using photogrammetry, and sending the photos to those running Scan the World. Photogrammetry is a process that uses a series of around 50 overlapping photographs, created with a camera or smartphone, to generate a 3D scan. These pictures must be of nice quality and evenly lit so that the scan can be created from them. An easy step-by-step tutorial guide of how to create a good scan can be found on their website if you are interested in creating your own cell phone 3D scan.

The data that is collected for the objects is processed and managed by users and professionals alike, allowing for the formation of an online digital museum. People like you can then enjoy these models for free! Scan the World makes our important historical items more accessible to the world, and gives us all a chance to enjoy, appreciate and learn from them. Visit their website and download your favorite models to play around with on your computer or print on your own 3D printer or through a 3D printing service.

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About Scan the World

3D Models of Eastern Island Heads


  • Erin Winick

    Erin is the associate editor of the future of work at MIT Technology Review. She is particularly interested in automation and advanced manufacturing, spurring from her background in mechanical engineering. Before joining Technology Review, she worked as a freelance science writer, founded the 3-D printing company Sci Chic, and interned at the Economist. She can be found at

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