The Q?rius Website: Digital Innovation at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Dan Kulpinski, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA, Colleen Marzec, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA, Maggy Benson, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, USA, Devin Reese, Smithsonian Institution, USA

Q?rius is the new interactive science education center for teens and tweens at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Q?rius gives teachers and students access to the Museum’s scientists, research, and collections. It features 6,000 collection objects – many of which visitors can handle and examine with hand lenses and microscopes – as well as touch-screen activities, a lab, a theater, a classroom, and regular appearances by scientists informally presenting their work to the public.

We will demonstrate the companion website,, which uses several innovative techniques to bring the onsite experience into homes and classrooms. These innovations include a live webcast series, a collections browser, and digital field books.

A special feature of the Q?rius website is access to the “Smithsonian Science How” live webcast series for middle school students. The live webcasts can be accessed, with no additional technology, from a Q?rius Web page using a computer or mobile device. An embedded chat module allows viewers to have a moderated interaction with a Museum scientist.

The site also offers two unique tools: a collections browser and digital field books. Both are extensions of what visitors experience onsite in the Q?rius learning center. The collections browser is a searchable database of more than 6,000 objects from the Museum’s collections. Each object page contains catalog information and a photo, and many objects also have complementary multimedia, explanatory narratives, and biographies of the Museum scientists who conduct related research.

Registered website users can also save content – including collection objects – to digital field books when they are onsite or offsite and add their own notes. In this way, users can create their own thematic collections.

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