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You’ll Soon Be Able to 3D Print Abraham Lincoln’s Cottage

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Ten days before the moment which would plunge the nation into mourning, Abraham Lincoln sat at his desk in the Lincoln Cottage. For more than a quarter of his presidency, he had lived at the cottage his family had come to love on a hilltop in northwest Washington, D.C.

It was in that quaint and sparely furnished home where Lincoln had hunched over at his desk, lost in thought, as he penned the Emancipation Proclamation.Lincoln_Tad

But now the president was pondering a dream he’d had, and it was weighing heavily upon his mind. It bothered him to such a degree that he spoke of it to his friend and biographer, Ward Hill Lamon.

“Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, Ilincolnscanner2 have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”

It’s likely that Lincoln was still in the grip of the unease he felt that day at the cottage. While it was the preferred location for he and his family to escape from the stifling heat of downtown Washington, he was preparing to return to the city and the work ahead.

It would be his last visit to the cottage and the day before his assassination.

The cottage is now open to the public and operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and it’s their duty to preserve, give guided tours and organize exhibits and programs to inspire visitors and pay homage to the fallen president.

Now the Trust, Michael Rogers, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ithaca College, and Scott Stull, a lecturer in sociology and anthropology at SUNY Cortland, are leading a team of researchers working to 3D scan every inch of the cottage. The project was funded by a grant from Ithaca College.

Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad, at the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier's Home.

Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad, at the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home.

To complete the 3D capture process, the team of preservationists and researchers is building an ultra-high-resolution image of the entire structure, inside and out. They say the resolution of the final images will be down to a fifth of an inch, and it also means it will be possible to 3D print the cottage using those same files.

They are using a Leica C10 3D laser scanner which captures 50,000 readings per second as the machine rotates. The $95,000 device calculates precise measurements of the size and shape of the objects and structures with the cottage to build up a complete 3D file.

“This great opportunity not only records the existing conditions of the cottage, it also provides a platform for us to document, manage and present future preservation projects to the public,” said Jeffrey Larry, preservation manager at President Lincoln’s Cottage.

The scanner projects a thin green laser line onto the walls, floor, and ceiling in a full 360-degree circle.

While the team says the primary goal of the work is preservation, it also means a digital copy of the structure can potentially be used to build a 3D virtual tour of cottage, and ultimately, perhaps 3D printed models of the cottage and the historic furnishings inside.

Each scan takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, and all the rooms within and the exterior of the cottage will be scanned twice.

Would you like to 3D print a copy of the desk at which President Abraham Lincoln penned the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation? Let us know if you plan to get the files from the project in the 3D Print President Lincoln’s Cottage forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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