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Preserving the Old Lincoln Courtroom & Other Historic Sites

Rich Egger
Bob Hohimer setting up the laser scanner for another scan of the Old Lincoln Courtroom

3-D imaging is becoming more popular among engineers working on building additions or remodeling projects.

“Before, we used to go out and take a lot of pictures and then get back to the office and say, ‘Man, I wish I would have gotten a picture of this area or that area,’” said Brent Wassi, owner of the Morton, Illinois-based company U.S. Laser Scanning.

“But when you’re scanning everything, you can go back into it electronically and we can do a virtual walk-through or fly-through of the model.”

Laser scanned 3-D images are now also being used to preserve the past.  The non-profit organization CyArk is creating what it called “A free, 3D online library of the world’s cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time.”

Credit Rich Egger
Brent Wassi (left) and Bob Hohimer get ready to do another scan of the courtroom.

One such site is the Old Lincoln Courtroom and Museum in Beardstown. CyArk, which is headquartered in Oakland, California and Edinburgh, Scotland, collaborated with U.S. Laser Scanning to get the job done.  The idea of electronically preserving the Lincoln site came from Bob Hohimer, Director of Marketing and Technology for U.S. Laser Scanning.

“I saw a TED talk from CyArk’s founder, Ben Kacyra, and was interested in it so I checked out their website,” said Hohimer, who discovered it included no sites in Illinois.

“So a light bulb went off and I said, ‘What better than a Lincoln site?’”

He said they talked about several Lincoln sites before settling on the one in Beardstown. The Cass County site is significant because it’s the only courtroom in which Lincoln practiced law that’s still used today.  In addition, it was the scene of the famous Almanac Trial won by Lincoln in 1858, just a couple years before he was elected president.

Bob Hohimer talks about the process of creating a 3-D image

Credit Rich Egger
A view of the courtroom from the bench.

The U.S. Laser Scanning crew used a laser scanner about the size of your head. It was set on a tri-pod and did ceiling-to-floor scans of the room from various spots.  Each scan took about eight or nine minutes to complete. A software program will be used to combine the collected data into a single, 3-D image.

The crew also planned to scan the old jail at the site and some offices that were used by Lincoln.

Information from CyArk said the organization was founded in 2003, a couple years after the Taliban destroyed the 1,600-year old Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.  

The group has started what it called the CyArk 500 Challenge.  The goal is to digitally preserve 500 cultural heritage sites in five years.  It then hopes to digitally preserve even more sites.

The group said the name CyArk is derived from the words “cyber” and “archive.”

Rich is TSPR's News Director.