Published on Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Heritage tourism and hi tech join forces

Ben Kacyra talks at TED SEE VIDEO NOW

CYARK reveals way of both preserving the past and displaying it sustainably

We think that just because a heritage site has stood for 2000 years, that it will stand for another 2000 years. For most, that is not the case.  Across the world, our heritage is degrading - whether through weather, natural disasters, urban sprawl, and conflict

We are losing our heritage and more importantly their stories quicker than we can physically conserve them

At the UNTWO Conference with tourism and culture delegations from 20 countries on the Silk Road, the meeting heard from Ruth Parsons, Executive Director of CyArk Europe, how CyArk is working with partners across the world to digitally document the world's most significant and meaningful  heritage sites  and secure them for future generations.

This is where the story begins………

As a boy in Iraq, Ben Kacyra had been awed by the ancient Assyrian statues of winged bulls at the ruins of Nineveh, in his hometown of Mosul.   When the Taliban used dynamite, artillery shells and rocket launchers to destroy two ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan, Ben was struck by the  fragility of history and he vowed to preserve what he could — in 3D.

Ben helped invent a portable 3D laser scanning device, paving the way for the technique's use by architects, urban planners, video-game designers, road builders, homicide detectives — a wide variety of professionals who need quick, meticulously detailed views of complex scenes.

After Kacyra sold his San Francisco Bay Area company in 2001, he and his wife Barbara started what he calls "a foundation to do good."  And from that CyArk was born.  Now in 2103, the Foundation has set up CyArk Europe, based in Edinburgh and led by Ruth Parsons, former Chief Executive of Historic Scotland.

CyArk is a non-profit organization.  Its mission is to digitally preserve cultural heritage sites across the world through the use of innovative methods to collect, archive, and provide open access to data created by laser scanning, digital modelling, and other advanced technologies

Using technology known as 3D laser scanning to generate tens of thousands of points per second, the idea is to map the fragile structures more precisely than they've ever been, creating virtual 3D models accurate down to millimeters.

The first thing CyArk does with that data is to keep it safe for future generations but putting it in its archive. But they can also process that data and produce outputs for conservation, through documentation and site management, and education and cultural tourism through interpretation and 3D visualization, giving free and open access to these heritage sites.

To date, CyArk has captured  the data for over 70 significant heritage sites across the world including  Ancient Thebes in Egypt, Angkor Wat in Cambodia,  Chichen Itza in Mexico, Pisa in Italy, Edinburgh's Old and New Towns in Scotland and Mount Rushmore in the USA.

But their ambition is in the next 5 year to digitally document 500 of the world's greatest heritage sites.  And many are on the Silk Road.

And it was at the Silk Road Minister's meeting in Berlin where the circle turned another round - the Minister of Tourism for Iraq asked how CYARK could help with possibly the world's greatest heritage site - the Mesopotamian area where civilisation first begun.

Further information:

Or email: [email protected] 

Valere Tjolle

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