Brad's Blurb

The Hidden Vault at Mount Rushmore

Just a light read here as the end of summer nears.  In September, I will re-focus on some professional development and staff topics.  If anybody has ideas or anything in particular that you would like me to touch on in future newsletters just let me know. 

One of America’s great national landmarks is Mount Rushmore National Monument.  There is nothing quite like “the faces” located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  If you have not had the opportunity to visit it, I hope that you can make your way there some day as it is well worth the trip.  This is not meant as an advertisement for South Dakota tourism, instead it is merely my way of highlighting an aspect of the park that is not widely known and has a remote connection to this year’s A&S Year of Civics & Citizenship in the 21st Century (Keys to our Common Future).  In the words of Mount Rushmore’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, “The purpose of the memorial is to communicate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt.”  Now for the rest of the story about that hidden vault.   

I watched a movie several years ago that filmed a few scenes near Mount Rushmore.  The movie I am referring to is National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007), starring Nicholas Cage.  Prior to the production of the movie the producers asked the national park service for authorization to film in a secret Mount Rushmore location called the Hall of Record.  The chamber does actually exist, although it is not widely known about or well publicized.  With Borglum’s death in 1941, the vault remained unfinished for over 50 years.  It was not until 1998 that the vault and its contents was finally completed.  It is not accessible or open to the public.  This secret chamber is located amidst the cliffs on the backside of the mountain carved with the presidential faces.  The producers never did gain full permission to film in the vault, but in the movie it appears that aerial shots of the entrance were shown.  The chamber contains sixteen porcelain enamel panels with the texts of a few of our country’s founding documents:  the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Gutzon Borglum’s biography etched into them.  These panels are sealed in a teakwood box, within a titanium vault, under a 1,200 pound granite capstone inside the 70 foot long rock chamber.  Borglum envisioned this vault as a repository for the story of our country for future civilizations.  His idea was that it would be opened in thousands of years by another civilization who would then learn about America and our country’s founding history.  And that is the rest of story.  See you at Mount Rushmore.  Thanks for reading.         

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