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Communications of the ACM


Who Owns 3D Scans of Historic Sites?

team laser scanning Mount Rushmore

Climbing teams spent over two weeks laser scanning Mount Rushmore in May 2010.

Credit: CyArk

High atop the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a layer of biofilm covering the dome, darkening and discoloring it. Biofilm is "a colony of microscopic organisms that adheres to stone surfaces," according to the U.S. National Park Service, which needed to get a handle on its magnitude to get an accurate cost estimate for the work to remove it.

Enter CyArk, a non-profit organization that uses three-dimensional (3D) laser scanning and photogrammetry to digitally record and archive some of the world's most significant cultural artifacts and structures. CyArk spent a week covering "every inch" of the dome, processed the data, and returned a set of engineering drawings to the Park Service "to quantify down to the square inch how much biofilm is on the monument," says CEO John Ristevski.


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