Use the Smithsonian for great photos and 3D models in PowerPoint and Word

The Smithsonian has millions of images and 3D models available online to add something great and different to Microsoft Office including PowerPoint slides and Word documents.

The Smithsonian Institution has been a US cultural, scientific and historical resource for the last 170 years. No visit to Washington DC is complete without going to several of their locations including two Air and Space Museums, African American culture and history, Natural History and the Museum of American History. Despite all those locations, the Smithsonian still has millions of items in storage with no place to display them.  Most museums and galleries have the same problem, just not on the same scale.

Smithsonian Open Access makes some of those hidden items accessible, virtually, as images or 3D models.

Just one example, if you want a musical instrument to decorate a slide or document or more specifically a saxophone.  There are many images available, but more interesting to use the Alto Sax played by the great Charlie Parker himself.

The Smithsonian has eight still images of the sax plus a 3D model compatible with modern Microsoft Office. Look for the download icon below any image/model.

Thanks to the original Geek Girl, Rose Vines, for the tip.

Find a Smithsonian image or 3D model

Go to Smithsonian Open Access and search. No login or registration required and it’s available globally.

Using Open Access images in Office

Open Access images are available in various formats, click on the download icon to see your choices.

For most Office documents either the ‘Screen image’ or ‘High-resolution JPEG’ is enough.  But you can go all out and get the ‘High-resolution TIFF’ which is a larger file.  JPEG and TIFF formats are accepted by Office.

Another, unofficial but fast option, is to take a screen-shot of the web page image and paste directly into your document, slide or email.  Do that either from the main object page or click on that image to see a larger version.

Smithsonian 3D models in Office

Some objects have 3D models available to download. Look for the ‘3D model’ in the image strip along the bottom.

Some 3D models have annotations, as seen in the image above. Click on the blue ‘speech bubble’ icon at left to hide/show the labels.

Use Insert | 3D Model to insert into, say, PowerPoint where you can resize and rotate the model to your hearts content. Be sure to check out the 3D Model ribbon for more options.

If you haven’t used 3D Models in Office, a download from the Smithsonian collection is a simple way to start and more interesting than the usual drawings.

About 3D model format and sizes for Microsoft 365

Click the download icon to see the 3D model download options which can be a little daunting at first look.

There are various 3D model formats which we’ve highlighted in the above image to help you see the vital detail.

gltf is the native format supported in Microsoft 365 apps for Windows and Mac.

gltf might not be available in full resolution so choose either glb or obj formats which Office can also accept.  glb  is preferable because Office is more compatible with its features than obj format.  See Microsoft’s 3D content guidelines for more details.

All the 3D model downloads are compressed ZIP files .

The low resolution options are probably enough for most needs and definitely less troublesome.

The full resolution downloads can be very large even as ZIP files. Large 3D models can easily make a document or deck file too large to open, edit or share. Microsoft itself recommends 3D models under 50MB.

An Open Access 3D model I wanted was over 4.9GB for the full resolution file and that’s in it’s compressed form! The low-res version was a more practical 29MB ZIP file.

More to come ..

The Smithsonian has a lot more in its vast collection that’s waiting for images and 3D modelling to be released.

I was disappointed there’s no imagery of Charlie McCarthy, the now sadly forgotten half of the famous comedy team “Bergen and McCarthy”.  Charlie is somewhere in a Smithsonian warehouse which is a pity because, among other things, he’s the ‘sister’ of Murphy Brown herself, Candice Bergen <g>

SketchUp 3D graphics now in Office
3D coming to PowerPoint as part of new Microsoft push

Video: Smithsonian Open Access

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