Bringing the Property to You: Robber’s Cave and Digital Preservation

From the very beginning of the project, History Nebraska’s State Historic Preservation Office (NeSHPO) knew that adding Lincoln’s Robber’s Cave to the National Register of Historic Places was going to be anything but a typical nominating process. The cave, which has been the site of tours, social gatherings, and even some illegal activities since the late 1800s, has walls riddled with thousands of carvings that provide a fascinating record of its past visitors. Snapping a few poorly lit photos of the property would not even come close to capturing the cave’s most essential features.

Convinced that this was an especially exciting opportunity, the NeSHPO and Matt Hansen, the volunteer who wrote the nomination, started thinking about using new technologies to better document this unique resource. Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanning caught their attention as an intriguing possibility. Unfortunately, neither the NeSHPO nor Hansen had access to this technology.

Enter Dr. Richard Wood of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Through a partnership with History Nebraska, Dr. Wood and a team of graduate students conducted 92 LiDAR scans in the cave over three days. The result was over three-billion data points that captured the cave with sub-millimeter accuracy to produce an accurate set of measurements of each of the cave’s five tunnels’ length, height, width, and depth. Beyond just documenting its present state, the LiDAR data will help the owners monitor the cave to make informed decisions on how to preserve the cave while still allowing access. By comparing any future scans to the 2019 data, they will be able to measure the extent of deterioration of the cave and better evaluate the success of different evaluation methods.

These LiDAR scans were ultimately incorporated into the National Register nomination, which was recently approved. While National Register nominations have always been available to the public, the Nebraska SHPO and UNL’s Engineering Department are pleased to now offer full access to the LiDAR scans of Robber’s Cave. This single viewing platform allows people from all across the globe to see Robber’s Cave without having to travel to Lincoln.

People often think that preservationists are stuck in the past—that they need to catch up with the times. Perhaps this is true in some cases, but the Nebraska SHPO is deeply invested in pursuing new technological resources and partnerships to better preserve historic resources while making them more accessible to all.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Vacationing on a Budget in 1909

Vacationing on a Budget in 1909

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.