I am always on the lookout for 3D printing in unusual situations and in conjunction with National Maker’s Week this past week; I was looking at the Smithsonian’s 3D printing site.  I have to say there are definitely some things that I want to print out from the site including fossils, statues and more.  But what most intrigued me was a 3D rendering of Abraham Lincoln.

The Smithsonian has two life masks of Lincoln that were donated by the families of Clark Mills, a sculptor form the 1800s.  The family donated a casting of the “life mask” of Lincoln to the Smithsonian in 1811, and this particular mask was done shortly before Lincoln’s 56th birthday in 1865.  Life masks were a common practice done in the mid 1800s to showcase the face of a living person.

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Lincoln always strived to be visible to the public during his time in office, and this is shown in the worry lines and gaunt features in the mask.

What was interesting to me was how my reactions to this type of portrait of this incredible leader were very intense.  I am used to seeing pictures and paintings of the great leader who had such an important role in American history, but I had not seen the 3D scan of the President before.  The 3D scan made him very human, very tired and very real to me.

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Looking at the picture of the scan, I thought of my own grandpa.  He shared Lincoln’s bony features and somewhat tired demeanor and I thought about how the Civil War must have changed Lincoln in so many ways.  Compare the look on this 1865 mask to one that was done earlier in Lincoln’s life.

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Volk was a sculptor who was doing a statue of Douglas and wanted a “matcher” for Lincoln after the famous debates.   Lincoln sat for Volk in 1860 when his political star was rising but prior to his run for President.   For a week, he went to Volk’s studio and sat for a plastic casting to be made of his face, in between court dates where he was the attorney working.  This was before he rose up to be a national politician and had not been nominated for a presidential candidacy.

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In five years, Lincoln aged so much.  The above image is a 1917 copy from a bronze casting given to the Smithsonian in 1888.

I encourage you to explore the site at http://3d.si.edu/browser and find out a bit about the models and technology.  There are STL files to download and information to be shared.  Check on the last view in the series below – so life like.

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