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Historic Scotland Launch Scottish and International 3D Scanning Project

1 July 2009

Culture Minister Michael Russell has announced a groundbreaking project for Historic Scotland to digitally document Scotland’s five World Heritage Sites -  The Antonine Wall, St Kilda, New Lanark, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, and the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.

This will be matched with the documentation of five international heritage sites taking Scotland’s expertise in heritage documentation and conservation around the world. Creating what will be known as the Scottish Ten.

The first international site will be Mount Rushmore in South Dakota which will be scanned in 3D to provide, for the first time, a visual documentation of this internationally important monument.

Michael Russell, Minister for Culture, said: “Scotland has great expertise and a wealth of experience in preserving, understanding and researching its historic environment. We have embraced 3D scanning to increase our awareness of heritage and are now able to share our knowledge in digital documentation with countries and organisations on a world stage for everyone to enjoy.

“Scotland is a world leaders in the digital documentation and visualisation of heritage sites through the pioneering work of Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art and this allows us to build and develop that momentum.  Recent work at Rosslyn Chapel and Stirling Castle shows what can be achieved and these projects demonstrate that we are at the cutting edge of technology for the benefit of our oldest heritage sites.

“We are in the process of talking to the various partners in Scotland to scan the Scottish sites. We will engage with the relevant bodies and move the projects forward as swiftly as possible to provide a comprehensive documentation of all of our fantastic world heritage sites''.

“The Scottish Ten is a pioneering step by the Scottish Government to further enhance international relations.”

Douglas Pritchard from The Glasgow School of Art said: “The digital documentation of Mount Rushmore is a technically challenging but exceptionally exciting project. It follows the success of the research relationship between the Digital Design Studio (DDS) at the Glasgow School of Art and Historic Scotland.

“The technical approach to be taken at Mount Rushmore will be similar to our Scottish-based projects, such as Stirling Castle and Rosslyn Chapel, although at a larger scale.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to demonstrate the unique technical skills at the DDS on such internationally significant heritage site.”

The Minister will be at Mount Rushmore on Friday, 3rd July to launch the project with Gerard Baker, Superintendent at Mount Rushmore, National Park, and Ben Kacyra of CyArk – a US-based non-profit organisation that created digital modelling technology – to an estimated 30,000 guests celebrating Independence Day.  

Discussing the project at Mount Rushmore, The Minister added: “I am delighted to announce  a partnership between three bodies - National Park Service, CyArk and the Scottish Government – with a common goal to digitally preserve cultural heritage sites which will brings to the fore a unique method of digitally visualising and understanding historic landmarks.
“This is a first step in what I believe can be a successful long term international partnership.”

Gerard Baker, Superintendent at Mount Rushmore, National Park, said: “We have discussed a commitment to pursue a truly pioneering partnership with CyArk and through them, the Scottish Government, RESPEC Engineering, Wyss and Associates, and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, to seek truly innovative opportunities in digitally recording, preserving and managing our historic resources.

“While Mount Rushmore is a national icon in the US, there are expertise in other countries which can assist us to preserve it in a modern context. Therefore, we have identified international partners who share our vision to grow National Park Service and what we offer the world.

“A partnership of the size allows us to celebrate our cultural heritage on a world-wide stage by recording one of America’s most important historical sites for the benefit of future generations.”

Ben Kacyra of CyArk whose Foundation seeks to digitally capture world heritage sites and monuments to create a lasting record with world heritage projects such as Mesa Verde in the US, Pompeii in Italy, Ancient Thebes in Egypt, Tikal in Guatemala, Chichen Itza in Mexico, and Angkor in Cambodia, to list but a few said: “It was exciting to meet Superintendent Baker and his staff last fall and to learn of his vision of digitally preserving this American Icon for future generations.  His further objective of making this invaluable data available to the public worldwide aligned with CyArk’s mission of dissemination through the CyArk website.”  

“We are indebted to Historic Scotland for their very generous donation of resources and technology to perform the 3D laser documentation.  This underscores the international importance of Mt. Rushmore and Scotland’s world class capabilities in this field.  We are delighted to have Mt. Rushmore and Historic Scotland as active partners in CyArk and to have the Monument as one of the first heritage sites to be included the CyArk 500.”  

Kacyra is credited with introducing the first commercial portable 3D laser scanning and modeling system in the early 90’s through his company Cyra Technologies.  Cyra Technologies was acquired by Leica Geosystems in 2002.
The three organisations - Historic Scotland, The National Park Service and CyArk are now seeking to complete an agreement to share other expertise, explore further international collaboration and develop lasting cultural connections between Scotland and the United States.

The scanning project will be led by Historic Scotland and its partner, The Glasgow School of Art, and CyArk– who will work with the Park Service at Mount Rushmore and devise a scanning timetable.

The Mount Rushmore Project

The project is expected to begin in late September and the initial survey phase will be completed in two-weeks.

It will provide a three-dimensional, digital model capable of recreating sculpted surfaces with an accuracy of 1 centimeter.  This 3-D model will be the focus of the comprehensive website for showcasing to the public the heritage and historic assets contained within the Memorial boundary.

The value of the 3-D model provides realistic digital information of the site and has applications to provide innovative and interactive public interpretation, education, research and security programs.  Regarding our mutual goals of preserving our precious heritage sites, in the event of an incident resulting in damage to the sculpture, the model would provide the data necessary to replicate carved surfaces.  

The digital model will also give the NPS the ability to develop a very realistic interactive model for Mount Rushmore for education and interpretive use including possible “virtual tour” of the Monument, as well as the entire site; the 3D models of the sculpture and the site could be used to create 3D digital educational games for K-12.  

The Hall of Records represents a “time capsule” displaying all phases of the carving process. The digital model will capture this information with millimeter-scale accuracy for posterity and provide a means to share this unique information, educationally and interpretively, with individuals not able to visit the site.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament. For more information visit

  • Historic Scotland is delighted to be supporting the 2009 Year of Homecoming
  • with a series of initiatives including family trails, spectacular events and the creation of a Homecoming Pass for heritage attractions in association with other heritage organisations

For further information

Lisa Nicholson
Communications and Media Manager
Communications and Media
0131 668 8852 or 07500 065 438