Mount Rushmore National Memorial

A Legacy in Stone


Mount Rushmore by CyArkCyArk

Introducing Mount Rushmore National Park

Standing prominent amidst South Dakota’s Black Hills are four of America’s most prominent leaders – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. The Black Hills, where Mount Rushmore was constructed were, and still are, considered sacred by the Lakota Sioux, the tribe native to the region. Initially conceived by a South Dakota historian to feature the faces of both Native American and pioneer heroes of the west, the monument forever changed the landscape. 

South Dakota (1940) by Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

Historic Context

Mount Rushmore is a National Monument and Memorial, and represents the birth, growth, and development of the nation and its legacy. Carved under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum from 1927 to 1941, Mount Rushmore was a massive undertaking, requiring 800 million pounds of stone to be removed by dynamite from the mountain face over the course of fourteen years. Over the years, the monument has been the subject of protest because of its location on indigenous lands. The land where Mount Rushmore was sculpted is considered to be sacred land by Lakota Sioux. The Treaty of 1868 forced the Sioux to relinquish parts of their land, including the Black Hills, to the federal government.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial by CyArkCyArk

Mount Rushmore Today

Today, Mount Rushmore is South Dakota's top tourist destination. The memorial park covers 1,278 acres of land and the mountain is 5,725 feet above sea level. It is managed by the National Park Service and became a memorial park after its completion in 1933. The memorial park has been the site of many presidential visits and, because the monument features the likeness of four of the most influential presidents in United States history, the monument is a source of national pride for many Americans. Since its creation, the site has also been protested because of its location within the Black Hills, an area sacred to the Native American Lakota Sioux.  The sculpture remains a complex symbol for the diversity of visitors to the site as well as local communities. 

Laser Scanning of Mount Rushmore by CyArkCyArk

Preservation at Mount Rushmore

Preservation at Mount Rushmore: The Mount Rushmore Memorial was carved from a type of granite locally known as Harney Peak granite. This granite is fine-grained and has veins running through it, making it susceptible to cracking. After the carving of the sculpture was complete, sculptor Gutzon Borglum devised a special sealant to fill in the cracks that were already apparent. In 1989, the National Park Service and the Mount Rushmore Society began studies to understand the structure of the mountain and the effectiveness of Borglum’s original sealant. Through these studies, the original sealant has been found to be ineffective and a modern sealant has been used to replace it. Furthermore, the major fractures and blocks of granite that make up the mountain have been identified and mapped. A special monitoring system has been installed to detect the slightest shifts in the sculpture’s granite.

Scottish ten at Mount RushmoreCyArk

Expedition Overview

This virtual experience was made possible through 3D data gathered at Mt. Rushmore in 2010, a collaboration between CyArk—a non-profit dedicated to digitally preserving the world’s heritage sites—Historic Environment Scotland, the Glasgow School of Art, and the US National Park Service. For several weeks, skilled capture teams, either on the ground or suspended from ropes, thoroughly scanned and photographed Mt. Rushmore and much of the surrounding park—it was an undertaking that, at least in the complexity of its orchestration, actually resembled the original sculpting process.The resulting 3D model was combined with an interview with Blaine Kourtemayer, Assistant Chief of Interpretation to share more about the process to sculpt the mountain. 

The Digital Preservation of Mount Rushmore by CyArkCyArk

By George SkaddingLIFE Photo Collection

Additional Resources

For more information on this site, its history and additional resources relating to CyArk’s work please visit

CyArk Mount Rushmore National Monument Resources.

Credits: Story

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This project was made possible with the following partners:

National Park Service

The Scottish Ten Project

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.