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Virtual Tour of Mount Rushmore

16 January 2012

Laser scanning carried out by a Scots team has allowed people unprecedented access to Mount Rushmore through a virtual tour.

In 2010 experts from Historic Scotland and The Digital Design Studio at Glasgow School of Art worked with the National Park Service and not-for-profit organisation CyArk to get into all the nooks and crannies of the iconic monument of the four President’s heads.

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:

“I am really thrilled that the work done by the Scottish Ten team is being used in such a wonderful way.

“The partnerships we have formed to use laser scanning to aid conservation and maintenance of some of the most incredible historic sites on the planet have huge potential. The work can be developed to offer virtual tours like this to allow online visitors to access areas that they could not in reality for safety reasons.

“Mount Rushmore was the first international site that the Scottish Ten project tackled and I know that it is still regarded as setting the bar really high in the standard of the work being carried out, the innovation in getting all of the data required and, most importantly, the partnership working that has now been rolled out to include the heritage authorities in India and China.

“Since the original scanning was done in 2010 I have seen the footage taken from the top of the monument and been lucky enough to meet some of the team from CyArk and the National Park Service. It is great to see that this has been utilised to enhance the visitor experience at Mount Rushmore.”

The digital portal features multimedia material including an interactive virtual tour of the Memorial, navigable and measurable 3D “point cloud” models comprised of the billions of points collected by the laser scanners, and a large collection of historic photographs.

CyArk founder, Ben Kacyra, said:

“It is an honour 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 new digital portal is available from the CyArk website for online visitors to access 3D models created through the laser scanning process. .

The Centre for Digital Documentation and Visualisation, a partnership between Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio, was created by the Scottish Government to carry out the Scottish Ten project. This ambitious 5-year project will digitally record the five UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland and five international sites.

Doug Pritchard, Head of Visualisation at the GSA’s Digital Design Studio, said:

“The documentation of the Mount Rushmore National Monument was a tremendous privilege, in particular working with the local survey organisations, Leica Geosystems, the US Parks Ropes Team and CyArk.

“Our team was well-prepared for the physical challenge, but what was unexpected was the unpredictable weather during the 2 week project - snow, fog, hale, high-winds and tornado warnings.

“By the end of the project, we were completely exhausted but very satisfied with the results of the precise digital survey.”

Notes to editor:

  • 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.

  • The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is one of the United Kingdom’s (UK) most successful higher education institutions specialising in architecture, design and fine art.  It has an established reputation world wide for high quality education and search that is demonstrated by the outstanding successes of its students and graduates and the professional standing of its staff.  It is home to an international community of 1700 undergraduate and postgraduate students studying in the schools of Architecture, Design and Fine Art, or at the Digital Design Studio. For further information:

  • CyArk is a non-profit entity whose mission is to digitally preserve cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving and providing open access to data created by laser scanning, digital modelling, and other state-of-the-art technologies. For more information visit

  • Follow the progress of the Scottish Ten online

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The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information about the programme can be found at:

The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at

                                                 Year of Creative Scotland 2012

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768096