The British Geological Survey (BGS) is today launching the worldâs first 3D virtual fossil collection to the public. Thousands of 3D digital fossil models, plus several thousand high quality images, many in 3D, can now be browsed and downloaded for free. The GB3D Type Fossils Online project, funded by Jisc, has taken fossils from museum displays and dusty drawers and made them available for academics, researchers and fossil enthusiasts to enjoy at their leisure. A holotype specimen from the collections at Exeterâs Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM) has been included in this project. The skull is on permanent display in the Down to Earth gallery and is from a Rhynchosaur, a kind of early reptile known scientifically as Fodonyx spenceri. This fossil was found at Peak Hill near Sidmouth. To celebrate the launch, BGS are running a free competition for the public at a number of museums around the country, including RAMM. Over the next three weeks, visitors are invited to hunt down the 3D-printed fossils (printed from 3D files in the online collection) among museum displays and enter a draw for VIP behind-the-scenes museum tours. One overall winner, drawn from all of the regional entries, will also receive a tablet computer preloaded with 3D fossils. Entry forms can be found at reception. Completed forms should also be handed in at reception. The competition closes at the end of the day on Thursday 12 September 2013. The winners will be announced on Friday 13 September. In the UK, type fossil specimens are stored in a number of locations across the country, and there is no easy way to search across the many different catalogues. The GB3D Type Fossils Online project has developed a single database of the type specimens, held in British collections, of macrofossil species and subspecies found in the UK. This includes links to photographs and a selection of 3D digital models produced by laser scanning of the best fossils. Professor John Ludden, Executive Director of the BGS, said: âThis work will provide an outstanding resource to geologists at all levels: researchers, university students, school students and amateurs for years to comeââ The BGS has carried out the work in collaboration with its partners: The National Museum of Wales; The Sedgwick Museum Cambridge; The University Museum of Natural History Oxford; and the Geological Curatorsâ Group, which represents a number of regional museums.
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