Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Tomb of the Unknowns, Arlington National Cemetery

The Tomb of the Unknowns, located in the Arlington National Cemetery contains the remains of unidentified soldiers from several of the United States’ direst military conflicts, and serves to memorialize all American soldiers who have not been identified in death. The marble sarcophagus of the tomb, based on a design by architect Lorimer Rich, was erected in 1921, following the consecration of similar monuments in France and Great Britain to the memory of World War I’s unidentified fallen soldiers. On Armistice Day that year, the first soldier, who had given his life in World War I, was interred in the tomb. At present, the tomb also contains the remains of soldiers who gave their lives in World War II and the Korean War. First Lieutenant Michael Blassie, who gave his life in the Vietnam War, was identified and exhumed in 1998. The monument is one of our nation’s most visited, boasting an estimated 4 million visitors annually.

In the late 1980’s, it became clear that the monument was rapidly eroding. Studies performed in 1999 show several cracks, the most severe of which measured 28.4 feet long, with an average width of 2.52 millimeters. The crack extended partially through the block of marble, and would eventually run clear though, causing a total collapse within 20 years.

Direct Dimensions Gets Involved

As part of the conservation effort Arlington National Cemetery tapped Direct Dimensions to scan the tomb in late 2004. On November 30, scanning commenced, using the Konica Minolta and our FARO Arm with a Perceptron laser. The scan was completed by engineer John Kelbel and industrial designers Jeff Mechlinski and Glenn Woodburn over two days, using the FARO Arm’s Perceptron laser scanner to capture highly-detailed data from the tomb’s intricate relief panels. This data can be used to exactly replicate the tomb at any scale, from a miniature to a full-sized reproduction. Below, sculptor John B. Andelin creates a small-scale model using the data captured from the scan.

Click to download the official DDI Tomb Press Release.