Thomas Jefferson Memorial, USA

Remembering the third president of the United States



Digitally documenting the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (2018) by Kieran Kesner for CyArkCyArk

Expedition Overview

In the summer of 2018, CyArk digitally documented the Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Obtaining baseline documentation of the monument was crucial to the site’s conservation of the structure as site managers work to better understand the growth of biofilm on the monument’s dome. Working with the National Park Service, CyArk used terrestrial photogrammetry (Nikon D810 and Phase One Medium format camera) and laser scanning (Faro X330) to document the exterior of the structure. While CyArk typically uses drones to capture all aspects of cultural heritage sites, the nation’s capital has restricted airspace. To successfully capture aerial photographs of the monument, CyArk photographed the site from the National Park Service’s law enforcement helicopter. The site has been able to use the data CyArk collected to better preserve the monument and monitor biological and environmental impacts on the structure over time. 

Viewing the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (2018) by Kieran Kesner for CyArkCyArk

Sculpture at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (2018) by Kieran Kesner for CyArkCyArk

Introducing the Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Light filtering through the sixteen columns standing in each of the four openings to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial illuminate a polished bronze statue of the third president of the United States. Inscribed at the base of his raised figure are the years of his birth and death: 1743 to 1826. Thomas Jefferson lived through the founding of the United States as an independent nation and significantly shaped the American democracy that the world knows today. Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, a document widely recognized as one of Jefferson’s most celebrated achievements. Its words located on southwest wall of the memorial read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” On April 13, 1943, Thomas Jefferson’s 200th birthday, thousands of people gathered under overcast skies in the memorial's plaza for its dedication ceremony. Just as the monument and the surrounding landscape have changed since its initial construction, our understanding of the complexities of Thomas Jefferson as a person and president have transformed as well. Today, the National Mall, where the memorial resides, is a place of reflection and activism. It is a space where people come to negotiate and reinterpret the foundations of American democracy that remain integral to Thomas Jefferson’s legacy.

Digitally documenting the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (2018) by Kieran Kesner for CyArkCyArk

Monument's Marble 

The expanse of smooth white marble that the monument is made of reflects transformations of the U.S. landscape during Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime. The outside of the monument is crafted of marble connected to the north and south boundaries of the country: Vermont Imperial Danby marble white George marble. The interior of the monument reflects one of the most transformative achievements of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, the Louisiana Purchase. Gray Missouri marble and Minnesota granite make up the base of Thomas Jefferson’s statue, referencing the states that were carved out during the Louisiana Purchase.

Documenting the Thomas Jefferson Memorial by CyArkCyArk

Drawing the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (2018) by CyArkCyArk

Using data collected during the project, CyArk produced drawings of the monument's present condition. Heritage managers will use this information to monitor the growth of a black biofilm on the monument's dome.

The large white square on the dome shows where conservators removed the biofilm growth to better understand how to preserve the structure in the future.

Open Heritage 3D by CyArkCyArk

Data from this project is now freely available through Open Heritage 3D.

Download the data from this project.

About Open Heritage 3D

The mission of the Open Heritage 3D project is to:

● Provide open access to 3D cultural heritage datasets for education, research and other
non-commercial uses.

● Minimize the technical, financial and legal barriers for publishers of 3D heritage data.

● Promote discovery and re-use of datasets through standardized metadata and data formats.

● Foster community collaboration and knowledge sharing in the 3D cultural heritage community.

● Share best practices and methodologies for the capture, processing and storage of 3D cultural heritage data

Credits: Story

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This project was made possible with the following partners:

U.S. Park Police

U.S. National Park Service

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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