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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Complete a short inquiry form to make a CT scanning request or find out more information.

Contact Us

Computer monitor displaying image of scanned specimen with the CT scanner in the background

Does the CT center service outside researchers with non-SI projects?


How much does it cost?

The standard fee for scanning services is $500 per day for non-SI users. 

What type of CT scanner is at NMNH?

NMNH uses a Siemens Somatom Emotion 6 medical scanner. 

What are the technical specifications of the CT scanner?

Please refer to the Instruments and Software webpage.

How long does it take to scan a specimen?

It depends on the quantity, size, and density of the specimens. For large specimens and very dense materials, the entire process will take longer than for those that are smaller and/or less dense. One scanning procedure usually can take between 15 minutes to an hour. For example, a human skull with our standard settings requires about 30 minutes including positioning on the scanner bed, aligning the skull before scanning, entering information, performing a topogram, scanning, and transferring data to a separate computer for visualization and copying files.

How large can a specimen be for CT scanning?

The gantry is 70 cm in diameter and the bed is 230 cm in length. Our scanner is capable of scanning anything that can fit these parameters. The bed can support up to 220 kg (485 lbs) of weight.

What is the format and size of the files?

The files are in a DICOM-3 format, a common medical image file format. Depending on the level of resolution and the number of images needed, most scans are 400MB to 2GB. Remember to bring a MAC-compatible external hard drive or USB drive to immediately receive copies of your files. If you do not have one available, data can be sent via Dropbox, Google drive, or to internal SI staff and researchers via the R: drive.

How do I view the images?

Unfortunately, we do not provide researchers with a free DICOM-viewer to observe their images. We do have recommendations about different software that we use in the CT center. We can also create JPEG images of the 2D scans to view, which are limited in your ability to manipulate the images. Reserving time to use any of the 3D reconstructive imaging programs in the CT center (Mimics from Materialise and OsiriX from Pixmeo) is possible.

CT Data Policy

We provide Users with copies of data produced from their completed scanning request(s). We provide access to and use of Smithsonian CT data only for non-commercial, educational use in accordance with the Smithsonian’s terms of use, and the Public Access Plan. The Smithsonian ensures the long-term preservation of all CT data for objects from its collections. For CT data from non-Smithsonian objects, the Lab will provide the User with a copy of the data, but does not guarantee preservation. Upon request, we will restrict access to preserved CT data via a two-year embargo from the date of scan completion.

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