The Smithsonian and IF/THEN will drop 120 3D-printed statues of women trailblazers in D.C.

STEM Soirée

The Smithsonian and IF/THEN will drop 120 3D-printed statues of women trailblazers in D.C.

(Courtesy IF/Then)

What do a video game designer, a conservation photographer, a reliability engineer, a fire scientist, a dancer-slash-roboticist, an astrophysicist, a digital archaeologist, a bat conservationist, and the CEO of an aquarium of all have in common?

They are among the 100-plus women of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) who will be descending in statue form on Washington, D.C. during Women’s History Month.

As part of its Women’s Futures Month festivities in March, the Smithsonian Institution has partnered with IF/THEN to bring 120 3D-printed statues of notable, female-identifying STEM innovators and influencers to the nation’s capital. Dubbed #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit, the assemblage of impossible-to-miss bright orange statuary is the largest collection of statues of women to ever be presented in a single exhibition as well as the largest 3D-printed project of its kind.

The exhibition opens to the public on March 5, kicking off a busy slate of Women’s Futures Month programming at the Smithsonian’s newly reopened Arts + Industries Building (AIB) on the National Mall. During opening weekend of Women’s Futures Month, all 120 statues will be on view at the historic AIB, the neighboring Smithsonian Castle, and at the adjacent Enid A. Haupt Garden. Then, beginning March 7, the exhibition will go on wider view with select statues being placed around the National Museum of Natural History along with other participating Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. The statues will remain in place through the end of Women’s History Month.

Among the statues that will grace the AIB and other locations throughout March, are life-sized likenesses of trailblazing women “entrepreneurs, educators, scientists and conservationists who are building the future” per a Smithsonian news release. They include Jessica Esquivel, one of only 150 Black women with a doctorate in physics in the country, and Karina Popovich, a Cornell University undergrad who produced more than 82,000 pieces of 3D-printed PPE for health-care workers during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given that many of the 3D-printed faces will likely be unfamiliar to the D.C.-visiting general public, the statues will be equipped with QR codes so that viewers can familiarize themselves with each featured woman’s unique story and their notable contributions to their respective fields.

As detailed on the exhibit homepage, the process of bringing the statues to life began with each of the 120 subjects standing in a scanning booth equipped with 89 cameras and 25 projectors. A 3D image was generated from each scanning session, which was then printed with acrylic gel. The printing process for each statue took 10 or more hours to complete. Although the exhibit will make its D.C. debut next month, it has previously been on full or partial view in Dallas and New York City.

“We are excited to highlight the work of these game-changing STEM innovators and help expand the narrative about who is leading in these fields,“ said AIB director Rachel Goslins in a statement. “These women are changing the world and providing inspiration for the generation that will follow them.”

As mentioned, #IfThenSheCan – The Exhibit is being presented by the Smithsonian in partnership with IF/THEN, which is an initiative of the Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies that seeks to empower and inspire the next generation of women in STEM.

Investor and entrepreneur Lyda Hill, whose philanthropic activities focus on the funding of scientific research, environmental stewardship efforts, and community-based endeavors in Texas and Colorado, referred to the exhibition as a “big idea that we created with the intention to reach young girls to spark their dreams and support their interest in science. We are deeply grateful to the Smithsonian to make these statues accessible to so many in our nation’s capital,” she said.

More information on the Smithsonian’s Women’s Futures Month programming can be found here.