The Story of Cave Rock project began in February of 2015 and was the outcome of several events. A large scale rock fall from Cave Rock at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, had damaged US 50, and more events were likely in the future. The Nevada Department of Transportation was searching for a way to protect the public from future rock falls, and minimize visual effects to the landscape. At the same time, I was searching for a collection of glass photo negatives, rumored to contain photos from the earliest days of the Nevada Highway Department. The Story of Cave Rock website was created using the photogrammetry collected by NDOT to engineer a solution to the rock fall, as well as the historic photos of Cave Rock from historic archives. Fortunately the NEH funded Institute on Digital Archaeology Method & Practice was in the making, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate at Michigan State University. The direction provided by the faculty, mentors and participants are what made the final website possible.
The challenges with creating the website were daunting; by profession I am an archaeologist, not a web designer. The photogrammetry data had not been collected for use in a cultural heritage project, and editing the data to recreate the historic appearance of the landscape in 3D required patience and effort, and a willingness to experiment with different digital solutions. The data had to be processed through numerous software programs to get to a format that was open source, editable, and could be embedded in the website. Scanning negatives with decades-old emulsion required research into techniques that would produce the best quality photo with the least risk of damage to the negative. The results were better than hoped for, and now 190 images are safely curated and available to the public and for future research and presentations.
The goals of the project were ultimately met: getting the 3D data into open source software, and the reconstruction of Cave Rock prior to the highway and tunnels. In addition to the 3D recreation of Cave Rock, a timeline has been created with a sampling of historic photos, and both are available at http:/storyofcaverock.matrix.msu.edu/ .
The guidance and exposure to all things digital were key in making the Story of Cave Rock project a success. Special thanks to the MSU Institute on Digital Archaeology Methods and Practice, Ethan Watrall and Lynne Goldstein. The project was a success largely due to the institute, the mentoring team (a special thanks to Shawn Graham), and the many discussions with other institute participants that were similarly challenged by their projects.