Pocket-sized Parasaurolophus skullFoto: (CC BY)

Example – A pocket-sized dinosaur skull

An example from the Natural History Museum in Stockholm of how 3D models can be used to convey information.

This is a 3D model of the skull of a Parasaurolophus, shrunk down, as the dinosaur was 10 meters long while running around on earth in the late Cretaceous period. The strangely shaped crest is linked to the nasal canals, and has been thought to be both a built-in snorkel for longer underwater stays, and as a reinforcing trumpet for the dinosaur’s sounds.

When educators at the Natural History Museum in Stockholm give guided tours and lessons, they always bring this model along. It is small and easily fits into your pocket, but still showcases all the skull’s important details. To make it extra durable, when being passed around among visitors, it has been made more massive than the original. Museum educator Susanna Edvall considers scalability, and thus the ability to focus on individual details, as the big upside of 3D technology.

A scale model of a dinosaur skull that is shrunk down this much is obviously a model, and does not attempt to appear anything else. In these situations, the 3D models’ lack of authentic materiality does not become a problem or obstacle to what the museum wants to convey – the shape of the dinosaur’s skull.