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.

The Black Hills

Mount Rushmore is located in western South Dakota in the Black Hills. This photograph shows the granite mountain, once known as Six Grandfathers by the Lakota Native Americans, which is now the location of the Mount Rushmore sculpture.

On December 28, 1923 State Historian Doane Robinson suggested carving giant statues of America’s great figures onto the Black Hills.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum

Gutzon Borglum, a famous American sculptor, was asked to sculpt the American monument into the Black Hills in 1924. While there were many designs for the memorial, Gutzon Borglum chose the four presidents to carve on the mountain in the final design because they represented the first 150 years of American History.

Borglum worked in several on-site studios, creating models which his workers used as guides. Borglum remained devoted to the project until his death in 1941.

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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