Mount Rushmore National Memorial
National Legacy in Stone

The Shrine of Democracy

Mount Rushmore, also known as the Shrine of Democracy, is a National Monument and Memorial depicting four of the most prominent presidents of the first 150 years of the United States – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson. Mount Rushmore was carved into South Dakota’s Black Hills from 1927 to 1941 under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum.

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 Memorial 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.

Scanning Mount Rushmore

Laser scanning at Mount Rushmore took place in May of 2010. Teams from CyArk, Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art (CDDV), Respec, and Wyss all worked together with NPS staff for over two weeks to fully document the sculpture. The data will be used for the Digital Preservation of Mount Rushmore.


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