Tlingit-Smithsonian Collaborations with 3D Digitization of Cultural Objects

R. Eric Hollinger, Edwell John, Jr., Harold Jacobs, Lora Moran-Collins, Carolyn Thome, Jonathan Zastrow, Adam Metallo, Günter Waibel, Vince Rossi


The Smithsonian Institution and the Tlingit community of southeast Alaska have collaborated on several initiatives to 3D digitize important cultural objects for preservation and educational purposes. For some projects, the Smithsonian created 3D replicas of objects repatriated by the National Museum of Natural History to the Tlingit community as sacred objects, objects of cultural patrimony and funerary objects. The Tlingit and Smithsonian recognize that 3D digitization provides a form of security against the loss of cultural objects and allows for reproduction and restoration in various forms. The production of physical replicas also creates the opportunity to further educational goals while the original objects remain in use for ceremony or in seclusion as restricted items. The collaborations between the Smithsonian and the Tlingit illustrate the potential for responsible applications of digital technology to transform museum-indigenous relations in a wide range of areas.


Collaboration; Repatriation; Ethnographic Archives; Cultural Heritage; Repatriation; Technology; Imaging

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