High-tech process to create digital copy of Lion Shrine

September 23, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion Shrine on Penn State's University Park campus is undergoing a digital laser imaging procedure that will create a detailed digital model of the iconic campus fixture. A pair of metrology specialists from the engineering measurement firm Survice Metrology arrived on Tuesday, Sept. 22, and will complete their work today (Sept. 23). To see photos of the process, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2141 online.

The firm was contracted to digitally construct a model of the Lion statue so Penn State will have a way to reconstruct the statue if it sustains any damage. Over the life-span of the shrine, the lion has had to have its right ear replaced tree times, twice because of vandalism.

In 1995 University hired a firm to create a means by which damage could be repaired. That process "caged" the lion in a crate for about six weeks while a casting was made. That casting, made of polyurethane rubber and fiberglass, has developed some cracks and is well past its useful lifespan. "If something were to happen to the shrine, we might be able to use that casting to create a replacement piece of the lion, but, we're not certain the casting would survive the process," said Phillip Melnick, director of buildings and grounds for the Office of Physical Plant and the de facto "keeper of the lion shrine."

Melnick said the digital scanning process will take two days to complete, and the scan will be usable for decades. "Technology will change, but usually the newer technology is backward-compatible so the scan will be viable for a long time," said Melnick.

The company doing the work, Survice Metrology, has used this process to create digital models of the Sphinx, and other precious artifacts including Michelangelo's David.

Although not common, there has been damage done to the lion shrine in the past – both intentionally and unintentionally. The shrine has lost its right ear three times over the years. Vandals damaged the shrine in 1978 and again in 1994. In 2003, the right ear again came off, although it appeared the damage was accidental.

Sculptor Heinz Warneke created the statue in 1940 from a 13-ton block of Indiana limestone, as a likeness of the mountain lion that once roamed Nittany Valley. The Nittany Lion has been Penn State's mascot since 1907 but was not officially recognized until this statue was presented as a gift to the University in 1942 from the Class of 1940.

  • Kyle Herr, a metrologist with Survice Metrology, used a handheld scanner to digitally capture the image of the lion shrine. To see more photos, click on the image above.

    IMAGE: Andy Colwell
Last Updated November 18, 2010