CyArk Engages GoUNESCO Campus Ambassadors

by Katia Chaterji
July 1, 2014
How many UNESCO World Heritage Sites have you visited in your lifetime?

For many, answering this question would be fairly straightforward – heritage sites are often inextinguishable in memory. But while large and iconic sites, like Angkor Wat and Rapa Nui, are forever ingrained in our universal consciousness, there are a myriad of overlooked heritage sites of equally stunning caliber, sites that may even be in our own backyards. The question thus turns to opening our eyes to the wonders that surround us, near and far.

GoUNESCO is an international travel challenge that singularly addresses this question. GoUNESCO started in 2012 when founder Ajay Reddy set a personal challenge to visit all 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India over the course of one year. As Reddy embarked on this ambitious journey, friends and strangers from across India joined him. Today, GoUNESCO is a global community of travel and heritage enthusiasts connected through an online forum and vitalized by its strong social media presence.

GoUNESCO challengers compete to visit as many UNESCO designated heritage sites as possible over a set period of time ranging from one year to a lifetime. Participants post photographs of themselves taken at each site as evidence (#gounescoselfie), and continue to contribute to the GoUNESCO community by offering travel tips to future site visitors. GoUNESCO is grounded in its emphasis on awareness – the more people are aware of the heritage sites in their vicinity and beyond, the more they will appreciate the importance of shared history and heritage. This awareness, in turn, galvanizes more people towards conservation and preservation efforts, ensuring that these sites are not lost to future generations. CyArk has similarly used interaction with students to build heritage advocacy, and so a strong parallel exists between our organizations.

Recently, CyArk had the pleasure of speaking with Ajay Reddy about the trajectory and ambition of GoUNESCO’s Campus Ambassador Program, an international student outreach program spanning over 225 universities in 40 countries. As regional GoUNESCO leaders, campus ambassadors encourage students to visit and learn about local heritage sites, making history fun, exciting, and relevant through various challenges. These ambassadors facilitate discussion and mobilize campus action when it comes to preserving local sites and fostering an understanding of cultural heritage.

This past Saturday, CyArk’s Justin Barton conducted an online workshop session* for GoUNESCO’s campus ambassadors, where he discussed the timeline of historic documentation beginning with traditional methods of documentation and survey, like ruler and tape measuring, and continuing to modern advances in technology, like the use of GPS and total stations to accurately annotate a site. Barton continued to introduce the group to further advances in technology augmenting the heritage preservation field today, such as photogrammetry and 3D laser scanning. He also emphasized that while these are skills requiring some training, there are resources readily available to the public, like Autodesk’s free 123DCatch 3D modeling software, that allow for experimentation and learning.

The workshop concluded with a Question & Answer session, where live viewers chatted questions related to CyArk’s digital preservation process, the potential of laser scanning for underwater sites, and the nomination process for the CyArk 500 Challenge. To respond to inquiries from students who were unable to attend the workshop, Barton will continue to answer questions on GoUNESCO’s Facebook page.

Barton's educational workshop provided GoUNESCO's campus ambassadors with excellent information to incorporate into their practice of heritage awareness and preservation. CyArk looks forward to continuing to work with GoUNESCO and its campus ambassadors!

Check out GoUNESCO's website and Barton's online workshop--and if you start to feel the travel bug, join a challenge!

*Due to a technical glitch, the online session stopped its YouTube recording approximately 8 minutes prior to the end of the presentation and the Q&A session. However, the majority of the presentation is online for viewing and the Q&A session continues on GoUNESCO's Facebook group page.
GoUNESCO began as a travel challenge inspiring participants to visit all 30 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, and has since expanded internationally.
User map indicating which UNESCO World Heritage Sites they have visited to date.
Challengers take photographs at each site visited to share with the GoUNESCO community.