Point of Beginning

CyArk, National Park Service Announce Mount Rushmore Digital Preservation Project

June 18, 2012


KEYSTONE, S.D. – The National Park Service announced the official launch of the Mount Rushmore Digital Preservation project. At a press event held in Rapid City, the National Park Service and partners Kacyra Family Foundation and CyArk (CyArk) unveiled the results of a multi-year digital preservation project. The project has created a highly accurate 3D model of the park and sculpture, and is also beginning to digitize portions of the museum’s collection in 3D. The project aims to help in the preservation of the monument and increase public access to park resources through virtual access to restricted park areas and artifacts.

“This has been a very exciting project for Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the National Park Service, CyArk and our national and international audiences,” said Superintendent Cheryl Schreier. “One of the areas the project specifically addresses is the National Park Service’s A Call to Action, advancing our education mission into the next century which includes the goal to Go Digital – transforming the National Park Service experience to offer rich, interactive, up-to-date content for our park.”

Project results include a new digital portal , 10 teacher-developed K-12 lesson plans, a free mobile app and a new exhibit scheduled to open later this year at the park. Forthcoming results include a 3D virtual museum of normally inaccessible artifacts and a 3D educational game for children.

CyArk Founder, Ben Kacyra, said, “It is an honor for our organization to digitally preserve such an important monument to the American spirit for generations to come. The CyArk website gives free access to users across the globe, allowing them to experience Mount Rushmore alongside other culturally significant world heritage sites.”

The project began in May 2010 when Mount Rushmore National Memorial and CyArk collaborated with Respec Engineering, Wyss Associates and the Center for Digital Documentation and Visualisation, a partnership between Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art. The Scottish team worked to capture the memorial using laser scanning and photography, making the site the first international project of the Scottish Ten. The Scottish Ten is an ambitious five-year project using cutting edge technology to create exceptionally accurate digital models of Scotland’s five UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites and five international ones in order to better conserve and manage them. A variety of locations at Mount Rushmore National Memorial were laser scanned and photographed to capture the memorial and create a highly accurate digital model. Leica-Geosystems provided additional project support by contributing hardware and software to the effort. The resulting information was used in the development of media for physical preservation work, education and virtual visits.

Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop said, “I am delighted to see Scottish expertise helping to interpret, manage and conserve this wonderful site.”

“The Scottish Ten has recorded some of the world’s most important and iconic heritage sites, and this new project at Mount Rushmore joins remarkable work already completed at locations including St Kilda, Rani ki Vav Stepwell in India, and Neolithic Orkney.”

“Historic Scotland, through its partnership with Glasgow School of Art, is taking Scottish digital expertise to a global audience, enhancing our country’s reputation for innovation, creativity and scientific progress.”

In April 2012, CyArk returned to the park with partner Autodesk, to capture many historic artifacts within the park’s collection. Using high-resolution DSLR cameras, the team worked to photograph everything from carver’s hand tools to portions of the sculpted Mount Rushmore surface. Using Autodesk’s reality capture software, the photos were used to create digital 3D models of the artifacts that provide detailed surface and shape information. Physical replicas of the digital models can then be produced by a 3D printer or made virtually available to the public through the web.

"New technologies for converting photos into digital 3D models will accelerate the ability to preserve and share the world's historic landmarks with students, researchers and more," said Brian Mathews, vice president of Reality Capture at Autodesk. "We’re excited to provide technology that will help these organizations scale their mission of preserving our landmarks and connecting these heritage stories with larger Internet audiences."

The public with have an opportunity to experience some of these 3D capture technologies first-hand on July 3 at the CyArk Digital Preservation Station at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The station will be open throughout the July 3 celebration at the park, and members of the public are encouraged to visit the station throughout the day to gain hands-on experience with 3D capture, digital modeling and 3D printing.