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How the U.S. Forest Service used 3-D modeling to preserve historic Utah bridge

How the U.S. Forest Service used 3-D modeling to preserve historic Utah bridge

(Utah State History via USFS)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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HUNTSVILLE — The Carnegie Kingspost Bridge was a unique project in Utah history, manufactured by Carnegie Steel Company with I-beams bearing the name of a famous company broken apart shortly after the bridge was built in 1900.

The bridge, which was located just outside of Huntsville, spanned across a portion of the South Fork Ogden River on land within Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, according to U.S. Forest Service Heritage Program archaeologist Rachelle Handley.

However, when the bridge became too deteriorated to be preserved physically, the U.S. Forest Service enlisted the help of technology to preserve it digitally before it was torn down in the winter of 2016. It’s a part of a newer technology in archaeology that can recreate old artifacts on a 3-D scale using images of the artifact.

For example, CNN reported in 2015 that archaeologists were using 3-D cameras to capture buildings and artifacts in Syria. This was done to preserve them in case they were destroyed by ISIS, which had been going around the country destroying ancient artifacts.

The Carnegie bridge’s case, however, was the first time the U.S. Forest Service used the same technology to preserve history in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. So, before the bridge was removed, the Forest Service, with the help of Geospatial Technology and Applications Center’s Remote Sensing Program, turned to 3-D modeling technology to document it.

They used a camera on a monopod, taking various images and then processing them through software and placing pictures together to construct a 3-D model, Handley said.

“The reason why we wanted to try this technology was because that bridge was unique and we wanted to try to preserve a detailed record of that particular bridge,” she said. “That’s why, instead of using standard photography, we wanted to try and use this 3-D technology to be able to present to the public in a different way.”

A small video of the projected was released by Utah State History in late November showing the 3-D imaging of the bridge. The project will also be available on the Forest Service’s YouTube channel, Handley added.

While it was the first time the technology was used at Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Handley said she hopes it won’t be the last time.

“There’s potential to use it in other applications,” she said, “or even in my application in the future, with respect to archaeology and history.”

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