About the Altgeld Collection Project

In late 2007 the Department of Mathematics and the ISL at the Beckman Institute, both of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, started working together to create 3D scans of some of the plaster models in the Altgeld Collection. These scans were to be displayed by The Traveling CANVAS in the CalculArt Exhibit at The Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, Michigan.

3D scanning made it possible for CalculArt to bring some of The Altgeld Collection to people in Traverse City; while the exhibit did include two aluminum models from the Collection, the actual plaster models, as well as string models, were too delicate to travel.

This website brings the five 3D scans from the CalculArt Exhibit to the general public.

About the Altgeld Collection

from Models at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne:
"In the 1800's, mathematicians exploring the nature of surfaces in space began to construct physical models of those surfaces. This was done to assist with the education of students and as a research activity. Certain publishing firms, particularly in Germany, began to offer copies of the models for sale around the world. At the end of the 1800's, many American mathematics departments began to develop model collections.

At the Chicago World Columbian Exposition in 1893, where Felix Klein curated the German models, Edgar Townsend was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois. Around 1899 he travelled to Göttingen, Germany, to write a dissertation with Hilbert. Göttingen was at that point a center of model-building activity. After completing his dissertation, Townsend returned to UI to head the mathematics department and he ordered a complete set of models. In 1911, Townsend hired Arnold Emch and set for him the task of constructing more models to expand the Univerity's collection.

Times changed and model-building died out, but UI retained its strong collection. The University currently has at least 380 models on public display. This is the largest collection of such models on public display in the United States and contains many original pieces by Arnold Emch that cannot be found elsewhere."