National Park Service Centennial: CyArk Takes D.C. Visitors to Mount Rushmore in Seconds with Virtual Reality

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download (16)It seems we have a celebration for anything and everything these days, whether we are appreciating cupcakes on Mondays or our dogs on Facebook last week. From genuine holidays to those made up by Hallmark, and from anniversaries that mark history to those that are just marketing ploys, there’s something to accentuate every 24-hour period. Many of us have been psyched to mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, however. And even if parks aren’t your thing, as technology progresses, you may be able to visit them more often without even leaving your desk chair, or … couch.

Officially supervised by the Department of the Interior, the NPS is immediately managed by the Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. And it marked its centennial officially on August 25th. The build-up and ongoing celebrating have offered up a great deal of information about parks around the US, as well as freebies. I soak all of this up as I’ve always enjoyed visiting any national park. A lot of work (and a lot of funding) goes into making national parks places of enchanting respite where we often have the opportunity to see nature, wildlife, go hiking and camping, and far more.

images (11)Whether you enjoy making detailed, long range plans to visit parks, or whether you love that feeling of veering off to check one out on the fly, it’s a comforting feeling to know that we can drive into a national park and stay for a picnic or a week—and get away from it all. The problem is, we can’t always drive away from our responsibilities at the optimum time when events are happening. What if the events could be brought to you though? If you were in Washington, D.C. last weekend, this is exactly what you may have experienced—in transporting yourself directly from the National Mall to the Black Hills of South Dakota to view the stunning sculptured countenances of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln at Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Highlighting not just 100 years in the past, but also moving into the future at an accelerated rate, this one grand—and certainly popular—national park was being shown off in all its glory thanks to CyArk, offering one of the many activities at America’s Front Yard Family Festival, held at Constitution Gardens, as a week-long ceremony sponsored by the National Mall and Memorial Parks.

With headquarters in both the US and Scotland, CyArk is a nonprofit that was founded in 2003 with a dedication to preserving history not just for us, but for our children and their progeny as well. The team at CyArk was motivated after they saw so many ancient relics and replicas being destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and now they work to ‘ensure heritage sites.’

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It makes complete sense that while physical sites are indeed being preserved and protected as much as possible, technology can be used to take us to places like Mount Rushmore in a matter of seconds, showing us the greatest details as we leave no touch, no trace, no chance for erosion. In allowing the public to participate, and in their long list of ongoing projects, CyArk uses numerous methods, from 3D scanning to conventional techniques in surveying.

“CyArk operates internationally as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with the mission of using new technologies to create a free, 3D online library of the world’s cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time,” states their website.

This event was positive on so many levels, from causing visitors to think about preservation and how technology can be used, to the incredible value in history. Those who were at the National Mall and saw CyArk’s presentation were also able to print out 3D models of monuments and memorials at the National Mall. This allowed them quite a different journey in tourism, as well as taking them through the digital preservation process too. Everyone who was part of this incredible virtual reality opportunity also received a free Google Cardboard viewer.

CyArk’s goal is to continue in creating a 3D library of sites such as this and others, all which could be lost eventually due to Mother Nature and the toll of the elements over time, as well as natural disasters, and sadly, war. All of the models from this event at the National Mall are now available at Tinkercad. If you’d like a chance to explore, make your own designs, or 3D print, just check out their library of downloads. Discuss further in the Mt. Rushmore Virtual Reality Tour forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: 4 Washington NBC]


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