The Making of Mount Rushmore

The 70th anniversary of the completion of the South Dakota monument prompts a look back at what it took to create it

Ninety percent of Mount Rushmore was carved using dynamite. (Paul A. Souders / Corbis)

Mount Rushmore Today and into the Future

Mount Rushmore
(Library of Congress)
At its going rate, Mount Rushmore erodes only one inch every 10,000 years. Borglum was the work’s sculptor and its first conservator. He and his crew sealed natural cracks in the mountain with a mixture of linseed oil and granite dust. Today, a repair crew on staff at Mount Rushmore patches cracks with a silicone-based caulking material on an annual basis.

Should a manmade or natural disaster ever significantly damage the monument, the park has a 3-D digital scan of the entire mountain, within centimeter accuracy of details, which could be used to recreate it. The data was collected during a two-week laser-scanning project the park administered in 2010, with help from specialists from the Kacyra Family Foundation and Historic Scotland, an agency of the Scottish government charged with protecting historic sites. “The sky is the limit on what kind of visitor programming we can do with this data,” says Bracewell. Soon, the memorial will be able to create virtual fly-bys and trips to the unfinished hall of records and the top of the mountain. Over two million tourists visit Mount Rushmore every year, but, with new tools, such as holographic images for use in classrooms, the National Park Service will be able to share the experience of the memorial with many more.


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