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Virginia Tech University Libraries, Entomology Department, and School of Visual Arts are creating a digital library of 3D insect models from the Virginia Tech Insect Collection. This project explores new practices for curating biodiversity specimens for educational access. Our work combines science, technology, and the arts to foster greater interest in STEAM among young students by demonstrating new ways to combine these important fields.

The Virginia Tech Insect Collection is the oldest and largest entomological collection in Virginia, and an important repository of natural heritage. This project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, digitizes, describes, and provides access to 15,000 pinned insect specimens. Upon completion of the proposed project, this will be the world’s largest digital 3D insect collection, available through multiple online repositories, facilitating wide use. Online insect collections typically only have illustrations and photographs, but our 3D models will allow users to virtually manipulate specimens, zoom in and out, and inspect anatomy in ways that are impossible with physical specimens or still images. This project enables global access to new educational experiences with ecologically and economically important insects, and threatened and endangered species.

We use a 3D scanning technique called photogrammetry to capture our insects. This method involves taking hundreds of images of an object, from every possible angle; then using specialized software to process those images into 3D models. Our team has embraced this technology as an opportunity to share cultural and natural heritage collections that might otherwise remain hidden from the public eye. Showcasing these models online makes them accessible for educational applications in classrooms, museums, and other centers of learning. Our goal is to encourage audiences to use these objects as a source of information and inspiration. As part of our efforts to encourage the exploration and use of these objects, we are also including a small augmented reality experience to demonstrate how these models can be used to create educational interactions.

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Digital Imaging & Preservation Service at Virginia Tech


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