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Idaho Virtual Museum has gone live offering digital access to Idaho Museum of Natural History treasures

October 11, 2016

Idaho Virtual Museum image of a mountain lion skeleton.
A screen shot from the Virtual Museum of Idaho's new online collection.

POCATELLO – The Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Informatics Research Institute at Idaho State University have teamed up to bring the natural history of Idaho to the world via the Virtual Museum of Idaho, accessible on the internet.

There are now more than 1,000 objects of the Museum’s collections online in 3-D at the website http://virtual.imnh.isu.edu/, which went live in late September.

“This is a monumental project for the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Informatics Research Institute that will bring the natural history of our state to the world,” said Leif Tapanila, IMNH director. “Through 3-D digital modeling, we have put Idaho's fossils and artifacts in the palm of your hand. We are one of the first museums to develop a comprehensive virtual platform for our collections. This is a huge task that is just beginning. We are adding new content every day and we plan to extend this model to the whole state.”

The project received major support from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust and the Hitz Foundation.

 Screen shot of Idaho Virtual Museum web page showing an animal skull.“We couldn’t have completed this project without the generous support of these two entities,” Tapanila said. “We want to make our collections available to the maximum number of people for discovery, education and research to find new knowledge.”

Most of the items on display are from the Idaho Museum of Natural History collections, but a few of the dinosaur bones are from the Natural History Museum of Utah. Items on display include dinosaur, mammal, reptile, fish and other fossils; artifacts such as arrowheads, stone ax heads, arrow shafts, pottery and an assortment of other objects; and mammal, bird and fish bone collections.

“We’ve been working on this for several years. We are taking the Museum’s physical collections, scanning them and making them 3-D accessible to anywhere in the world,” Tapanila said. “This is one of the few museum collections in the world that you can access items online in a three-dimensional context, rotating the objects and seeing them from different angles.”

Tapanila said the Museum couldn’t have created the Virtual Museum of Idaho without the partnership with the ISU Informatics Research Institute in the College of Business, directed by Corey Schou, who is an associate dean in the College.

“The Informatics Research Institute has been a leader in developing the technology for this,” Tapanila said. “Working with Corey Schou’s team in the College of Business has been a strong relationship. They deal with the database management and website creation and we create the digital things that go in it.”

For more information on the Idaho Museum of Natural History, visit http://imnh.isu.edu/; for more information on the ISU Informatics Research Institute, visit http://iri.isu.edu/.