Cultural Heritage: A Paradigm Shift: The CyArk 500 Challenge

A 158Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE

You’ve likely heard our (CyArk’s) story before on LiDAR News: the non-profit working with global partners to digitize humanity’s heritage. But the digital recording of heritage is only the start of our story. The data collected by today’s 3D reality capture technologies, such as LiDAR and photogrammetry, create tools that can benefit cultural heritage in many facets, far beyond traditional documentation methods. The borndigital 3D data is easily manipulated into tools for conservation as well as education and public benefit. It is this ease of multi-use that is 3D digital data’s greatest benefit to heritage.

Yet the cultural heritage industry has not ubiquitously accepted LiDAR and other 3D technologies as the de facto methods for documentation. CyArk continues to spread our mission and advocate for the technologies’ benefits to heritage, but there is more work to be done. We are striving to create a paradigm shift in cultural heritage management, education, and outreach to take documentation of sites to the next level of utility and value. But paradigm shifts do not come easy and a great push has been needed.

A few years back, when we were still a budding organization, CyArk founder Ben Kacyra had the idea of creating a unique global initiative to spur the adoption of our methodology within the heritage world. He called it the CyArk 500. With time, our network of partners grew; it now tops over 170 organizations representing heritage groups and foundations, service providers, government agencies, education institutions, corporations, and more. It is with each of these partners that we have been able to grow our archive to comprise of over 100 heritage sites spanning all seven continents.

And it is with this mounting support that in October 2013 we were able to bring the vision of the CyArk 500 Challenge to the world. At the Tower of London in the UK, to an audience of over 200 individuals from 32 countries, including over 30 diplomatic representatives, we hosted a two day event. The conference was the official launch of the 500 Challenge, with its ambitious goal to digitally preserve 500 cultural heritage sites within the next 5 years in response to the accelerating threats facing heritage and before more sites are ravaged by war, terrorism, arson, urban sprawl, climate change, natural disasters, and time itself.

As part of the challenge, we’ve asked the world to participate in a few key ways:
Nominate a site for consideration by our blue-ribbon Advisory Council of heritage experts
Partner with us by donating data from heritage sites already captured in 3D; become a Supporting Partner by supporting the mission through institutional, technical, or other support, including volunteer services, discounted services, promotional services, and hardware/software donations; and/or become a Project Partner by working with us on data collection and dissemination for individual projects
Donate to the CyArk 500 Fund, a general fund established to support digital preservation of the selected 500 sites.

As ICOMOS President, Gustavo Araoz, said, "We want to use the technology beyond mere documentation to promote capacity building in all regions." We hope the 500 Challenge will be the first great push toward this paradigm shift in cultural heritage’s adoption of LiDAR and 3D data capture technologies for management, education, and outreach.

If you did not have the opportunity to attend the CyArk 500 Challenge launch and conference at the Tower of London this past October, or if you did and you want to revisit your favorite talks, all the sessions are now freely available in a YouTube playlist on the CyArk YouTube channel.

Justin Barton is an archaeologist with a specialization in terrestrial LiDAR applications for cultural heritage conservation and management.

A 158Kb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine complete with images is available by clicking HERE