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3D Digital Triceratops Exhibit Featured at UW’s American Heritage Center

October 21, 2021

The University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center (AHC) is breathing new life into an old cinema dinosaur.

Using new technology, the AHC is displaying an interactive exhibit featuring a 3D digital replica of the triceratops animatronic model used in the first King Kong movie in 1931.

The triceratops came to the AHC as part of the Samuel Anthony Peeples papers. Peeples was a television scriptwriter and author who was involved in the science fiction novel and television communities. Initially intended for another film -- “Creation” -- the triceratops armature was repurposed for the King Kong film, but its scenes were cut from the final version.

Test footage of the dinosaur in action can still be seen today in the King Kong DVD released by Time-Warner in 2005 and on a YouTube video.

Nearly a century after its creation, the triceratops model has become fragile -- too fragile for visitors and researchers to safely handle. The foam material used to build out the shape of the triceratops was not meant to last and easily crumbles off the metal skeleton framework, says Rachel Gattermeyer, AHC digital archivist.

For years, the AHC has protected the model in a glass display case. Now, with the help of new technology, the AHC has taken a second approach to protect and preserve the model. Collaborating with UW’s Shell 3D Visualization Center and the University Libraries Digital Collections Office, the AHC has created a virtual 3D replica of the physical model.

Visitors to the triceratops display now have a hands-on opportunity to interact with the triceratops. Using a touch-screen display, people can spin, rotate and manipulate the digital model, viewing it and interacting with it in new ways.

The 3D model of the triceratops was created using photogrammetry -- the process of using multiple 2D photographs to record all angles and perspectives of an object and then stitching them together to create an accurate 3D image of the original. This digital copy captures the triceratops at a moment in time, preserving it unchanged for the future even as the physical model continues to deteriorate, Gattermeyer says.

The AHC’s loggia and gallery spaces are open 10 a.m-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, with a Wednesday lunchtime closure at noon.

For more information, call the AHC at (307) 766-3756 or email ahcref@uwyo.edu.

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