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Life-Sized Dinosaur Skeletons and Dancing Boots: Smithsonian Releases Augmented Reality Filters on Instagram

Ten new AR filters show Smithsonian items up-close and personal.

Photo via Smithsonian on Instagram.

Virtually visit the currently closed Smithsonian in a totally new way: with augmented reality. On Wednesday the institution released ten AR filters on Instagram that viewers can use to see museum objects up-close using the app’s camera. You can try placing a life-sized virtual triceratops on your dinner table or zoom in to see a space shuttle. The new interactive tool walks through fun facts about the artifact and encourages people to take photos with the 3-D image. Considering Smithsonian museums recently closed again due to the pandemic, this could be a fun way to keep exploring the vast collections.

I invited the triceratops to dinner, but he was a dead weight conversationalist. Photos by Rosa Cartagena.

The handful of items includes a green hat by milliner Vanilla Beane from the National Museum of African American History & Culture and a skeletal mammoth courtesy of the National Museum of Natural History. Using AR, viewers get an intimate look at objects like the elaborate “Cosmic Buddha” of the National Museum of Asian Art’s collection, which features detailed Buddhist scenes you might not catch in person. Platform boots from The Wiz actually dance in front of you.

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Instagram partnered with the Smithsonian as well as other museums to expand its educational AR offerings on its platform, Spark AR. Eager art enthusiasts can virtually travel and see works from France’s Palace of Versailles and Le Grand Palais.

Click through the descriptions to see where the item comes from and learn about its history. It’s just one way that arts institutions are trying to keep museum-goers engaged while people stay home, and it’s part of a greater expansion into digital archiving that makes these fascinating objects more accessible to everyone.

Web Producer/Writer

Rosa joined Washingtonian in 2016 after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. She covers arts and culture for the magazine. She’s written about anti-racism efforts at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, dinosaurs in the revamped fossil hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum, and the horrors of taking a digital detox. When she can, she performs with her family’s Puerto Rican folkloric music ensemble based in Jersey City. She lives in Adams Morgan.