Press Release: Explore CT scans of Field Museum mummies on gaming platform Steam

June 26, 2020 Science
Beginning June 26, natural history fans all over the world will be able to take a close look at the Field Museum’s mummies—really, really close. Detailed CT scans of the mummies will be available for download from the gaming platform Steam, enabling users to explore the mummies from the comfort of their own homes. 
 
Inside Explorer, the software that makes this possible, was originally developed by 3D visualization company Interspectral for museums, zoos, and science centers to use in their labs and exhibitions, including the Field’s Mummies, which toured the U.S. from 2013-2018. Now that Inside Explorer is available on Steam, anyone with a gaming computer can explore historical and zoological specimens from the inside out. In a blog post about the software, Interspectral’s developers wrote that they hope Inside Explorer will “reach an entirely new audience and hopefully evoke interest for natural science, biology and history among people who are usually not exposed to this kind of scientific content.”
 
The Field’s mummies, meteorites, and insects preserved in amber will be released throughout the summer as downloadable content, with the Gilded Mummy making its Inside Explorer debut first. With many museums closed right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these downloadable content packages provide an immersive way for the public to access the specimens from the Field’s collections.
 
CT scans, which are made up of countless X-ray images taken from different angles and stacked together to produce virtual 3D models, are used in the medical field, but also by scientists who want to see what’s inside specimens without destroying them. In 2012, JP Brown, the Field Museum’s Regenstein Conservator, began working with Interspectral and their Inside Explorer software to present CT scans of the Field’s collection mummies in new, more accessible ways. “How do we get people as close as possible to the experience of studying these scans?” he asked.
 
This resulted in a pop-up exhibition at the Field, which grew into Mummies, a show that toured at such institutions as the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Though Mummies made its final homecoming stop at the Field in 2018, people everywhere can now enjoy its content, as well as meteorites and insects in amber from our behind-the-scenes collections.
 
Eventually, Brown hopes schools use these user-friendly CT scans in classrooms to spark curiosity about ancient civilizations and the natural world. “My biggest hope is that our content on Inside Explorer ends up in schools,” Brown says. “Every middle school does a unit on Ancient Egyptian civilization, and this is 100% the best way to study mummies.”