Bringing Digital Preservation to Universities

This spring, CyArk will be working closely with our partners, the University of Colorado, Denvers Center of Preservation Research (CoPR) in the USA and the Geomatics department of University KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa. CoPR and UKZN will be receiving their second year of training as Technology Centers with CyArk.

In order to foster sustainability of the digital preservation process, CyArk has been establishing local Technology Centers around the world. Technology Centers benefit both local communities and an international audience. The centers educate young people in a new technology and provide them with commercially applicable skills while creating a venue for the digital preservation and dissemination of cultural information to the wider public.

To establish the Tech Centers, CyArk partners with educational institutions globally, such as CoPR and UKZN. To help the Tech Centers begin documenting heritage locally for archiving and dissemination with/through CyArk (, a multi-year relationship is established. To start, the first year includes initial training in CyArks Standards and Procedures for digital preservation of cultural heritage, including field capture methodology and data requirements to final deliverable processing standards for basic outputs such as CAD files, visualization tools, and content management through CyArks own web-based SiteManager GIS which powers the CyArk website. Each consecutive year builds on those skills, adding more advanced deliverable production, such as meshing of laser scan data, creating online Virtual Tours, as well as updates to the ever-evolving data collection methodologies and standards.

In early April I will be traveling to Denver for one week to work with CoPRs Director, Kat Vlahos, and Technical Coordinator, Mike Nulty. Through our partnership, CyArk and CoPR have already collaborated on the digital preservation of three of CyArks heritage projects in California, Wyoming, and Utah and CyArk has provided regular remote support and on-site supervision and support during two of CoPRs own projects in Colorado and Wyoming. And to build sustainability, CoPR has fully integrated the technology and skill development into UC Denvers curriculum for their Masters of Science in Historic Preservation program. Year 1 has seen the successful completion of multiple projects and the foundation skills developed both with staff and Masters students at CoPR. Year 2 will continue to benefit from Year 1s progress, and grow to Tech Centers capacity in output and production quality through new skill development for photogrammetric data capture, 3D mesh modeling from scanner data, and improvements in data management.

And in late May, I will be traveling to South Africa for a one week session with Carl Grossman, Project Manager of UKZNs Geomatics department; Angus Forbes, Programme Director of UKZNs Geomatics department; Michelle Dye, GIS and Mapping Specialist at the African Conservation Trust (a partner of CyArk and UKZN); and a team of students conducting field work while working toward their diplomas in surveying. Since the first round of training last March with UKZN, the two student teams (the Heritage Mapping Unit and the Rock Art Mapping Unit) have continued their efforts to document both ancient rock art throughout the Drakensberg World Heritage Site as well as historic building and monuments within KwaZulu-Natal. In May, another effort to get hands-on skill development and training will occur on-site at two South African rock art locations: Kruger Park and Skukuza Camp. Similar to CoPR, Year 2 of training will focus on Virtual Tours, solid mesh modeling, and training in new advanced GIS features recently added to SiteManager for enhanced data and information management via the internet.

CyArk continues to look forward to nurturing these Technology Center partners as they mature into powerhouse digital preservation experts, and seeing the skill not just being used by university and educational staff, but watching the skill and technology transfer happen at the student level to ensure new generations of architects, surveyors, and historic preservation experts are versed in the latest technologies and methods at their disposal for the best work and best product.

Carl Grossman commented, UKZN is excited to be a CyArk Technology Centre and the contact and training sessions both on the ground and via the web are hugely valuable to our efforts to preserve the past in South Africa. The knowledge gained by our students puts them at the cutting edge of this technology in a very competitive market.

About the Author

Elizabeth Lee

Elizabeth Lee... Currently Director of Projects and Development, CyArk. Originally trained as an archaeologist, Elizabeth Lee has managed projects for CyArk all over the world. A California based non-profit, CyArk has digitally preserved over 50 important heritage sites including Pompeii, Tikal, Ancient Thebes, Chichen Itza, and Babylon. Ms. Lee currently directs all aspects of digital preservation project work and development. She is also responsible for strategic development for the CyArk 500, helping organize themes within the 500 and expeditions to both Mexico and Scotland. Prior to joining CyArk, Ms. Lee founded the UC Berkeley/CyArk Visualization Lab and served as instructor for the UC Berkeley/CyArk Internship Program. Ms. Lee is a regular presenter at 3D digital documentation conferences around the world and in addition to presenting scholarly papers to the cultural heritage community. She has also been published in The American Surveyor, the Leica Reporter and Professional Surveyor Magazine. She holds a degree in Anthropology with honors from the University of California at Berkeley.
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