Haiti Heritage Preservation: A Call for Volunteers

CyArk Needs Volunteers to Help Document Haiti's Cultural Heritage

by Dan Walsh
February 12, 2010
The recent earthquake in Haiti has devastated a nation and caused immeasurable loss of life. Thankfully, the world has responded en masse. Donations, supplies, and aid workers have flown in from all corners of the world to help ease human suffering. The job isn't done yet, and it won't be for some time. Friends and loved ones are still missing, injuries still need treatment and care, risks of infection are a continuing concern, and most victims are still displaced and in need of permanent shelter.

Not all issues can be addressed at once, and stemming the loss of human life and suffering takes precedence over all other concerns. As health concerns are eased, Haiti will next be faced with the daunting task of rebuilding Port-au-Prince and the surrounding region. One's self image isn't confined solely to reflections in a mirror, but is intricately tied to one's home, neighborhood, city, region, and country. When iconic structures that have served as bastions of local and national pride collapse - like the Port-au-Prince Cathedral - part of a population's identity crumbles along with the stone. What happens to the identity of a community when such places and monuments disappear forever?

CyArk is working with ICOMOS, the advisory body for UNESCO, to assist the conservation effort by providing help in documentation and data collection, helping to counteract this loss of cultural identity and heritage. We are adapting our own internal tools, usually used for sharing cultural heritage projects, to accommodate reconstruction efforts in Haiti. It is our hope that by creating a single source to gather historic and contemporary structural data, we can help restore these places which embody so much of Haiti's history.

As Haitian art historian Gerald Alexis stated “It’s our heritage, and although people think that in poor countries such concepts are unnecessary, they are indeed the only thing we have.”

We need your help:

As clean up efforts continue, crews will unknowingly discard rubble that was once part of a beloved church or historic palace. Time is of the essence.

We are looking for companies, organizations, teams, and individuals who have expertise in HDR photography, HDS laser scanning, and surveying to help document Haiti and generate photographic, architectural, and laser scan data.

If you are interested in joining us in this cause, please contact elizabeth.lee [at] cyark.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
Image of the Port-au-Prince Cathedral ruins. Photo courtesy Shaul Schwarz.