Museology Master of Arts Program

November 20, 2019

Documenting Fossil Preparation in the Third Dimension: 3D Scanning and Printing the Tufts-Love T. rex Skull

Project by Alaria Longstaff (2018)

The purpose of this project was to experiment with 3D scanning and printing as a means to document the preparation process of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, Washington. 3D scanners were used during the preparation process at regular intervals to document the context of displaced bones within the skull’s matrix. The scanning process proved to be expedient and did not interfere with preparation activities. However, the post-processing necessary to create 3D models for printing was significantly more time- consuming. The scans yielded 3D digital renderings and prints to be used by researchers, preparators, educators, and collections managers to interpret the fossilization process of the skull for the benefit of academics and museum visitors alike. Despite challenges such as data storage and technical difficulties, this technology changes and improves rapidly, making 3D scanning and printing an increasingly feasible option for digital documentation in museums with multipurpose and interdisciplinary applications. The Burke Museum’s resources offer an exciting opportunity to continue exploring this digital method of documentation in the future.

Keywords: Class of 2018, museum, museum studies, museology, project, 3D scanning, 3D printing, dinosaur, dinosaurs, bone, bones, skull, documentation


Longstaff, A. (2018). Documenting Fossil Preparation in the Third Dimension: 3D Scanning and Printing the Tufts- Love T. rex Skull. Unpublished master’s project, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.