Although they can often appear monolithic and unchanging, many of the world’s priceless historical are at risk of irreversible damage. Whether it is the Taj Mahal may be limiting the number of tourists allowed onto the site, or ISIS destroying world heritage sites in Syria, some of our most precious wonders are not as permanent as they may seem.

A partnership between Google’s non-profit Arts and Culture arm and Oakland-based non-profit CyArk is looking to use technology to digitally some of the world’s most endangered sites. The project wants to make sure future generations can marvel at the feats of human vision and ingenuity.

The project is currently aimed at using laser scanning technology to preserve 27 sites, including Aztec temples in Chichen Itza, cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and rock art sites in Somaliland.

Virtual heritage

CyArk was founded in 2003 by Ben Kacyra after he watched footage of the Taliban destroying 1,500-year-old Buddhist statutes in Afghanistan. The organisation has already documented hundreds of locations threatened by conflict, natural disasters, pollution or human development.

The Google partnership is a step up in their operations though. The search giant has taken the that CyArk has gathered through the use of tripod or drone mounted laser scanners and used it to create 3D models. These will be presented alongside commentary from historians, articles and videos.

post on Google’s site gives a bit more detail:

“The data is comprised of LiDAR and photogrammetric images and is being made available through a self-serve platform powered by Google Platform. Anyone with an interest can request the data through a simple form and receive a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.”

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