For more than three decades following her 1961 installation at the Fort Myers - Lee County Public Library, the marble sculpture of the German siren Lorelei lounged without incident in the landscaping bed outside the library's front entry. But on the evening of October 29, 1997, vandals ravaged the unlucky young maiden, decapitating her head, breaking off her left elbow and severing the toes on her left foot.
Was it a warm-up for Mischief Night the following day or just an instance of wanton, senseless destruction? The fact that the head, elbow and toes were never recovered seems to suggest that someone wanted a trophy, but none of the missing marble has ever turned up in the decades that have elapsed since the maiden's desecration.
Restoring the statue to her former glory has been discussed periodically over the ensuing years, and Fort Myers resident Jim Butler even donated $1,000 to the city's public art fund in an effort to induce the city to undertake the sculpture's restoration. But frankly, until researchers at Florida Atlantic University developed a computer algorithm that is capable of creating 3D models of faces based on 2D images a few years ago, the technology did not exist to undertake such an ambitious conservation and restoration project.
"We can [now] employ digital processes to replicate and replace the missing components such as the elbow and head," notes Joe Riche of Demiurge Designs, a design/build fabricator located in Denver,Colorado. "We can 3D laser scan or produce 3D data maps from photographs of the missing components and their connections to the main sculpture. This digital information can then be used to mill replacement parts out of the same marble from the same quarry, creating a virtually seamless connection between the existing sculpture and the new parts."
But even if the sculpture can be conserved and restored, should it be? And by whom?
The answers to these and related questions might surprise you.