The challenge to save our cultural heritage

Launch of the CyArk 500 Challenge and conference to take place 20-22 October at the Tower of London

by Ben Kacyra
May 30, 2013
Our cultural heritage is at-risk. The destruction of the Great Umayyad Mosque Minaret in Aleppo, Syria and the Nohmul Pyramid in Belize last month underscores the vulnerability of centuries old structures. We need to save these sites before it is too late. We at CyArk are putting a challenge to the world to save our at-risk cultural heritage.

On October 20-22 at the Tower of London, CyArk will formally launch the CyArk 500 Challenge to digitally preserve 500 cultural heritage sites within the next five years. The event will include an announcement of the site selection criteria, unveiling of the first sites to be included in the 500, and a two-day conference to discuss the key issues in accomplishing the 500 Challenge. We are on a mission to save these cultural heritage sites digitally before more are ravaged by war, terrorism, arson, urban sprawl, climate change, earthquakes, floods, and other threats. There isn’t enough money or enough time to physically save every site, but we do have the 3D technology to digitally save these sites to make them available for generations to come.

My wife Barbara and I started CyArk as a non-profit organization in 2003 to digitally preserve cultural heritage sites worldwide. Since then CyArk and our global network of partners have deployed advanced 3D imaging technologies to digitally capture and archive 3D data for more than one hundred cultural heritage sites ranging from Pompeii to Ti’kal to Mount Rushmore to the Royal Kasubi Tombs to the Sydney Opera House. CyArk data is used by site conservators and for education and cultural tourism purposes. The digital data is archived for posterity in Iron Mountain's secure, underground vault. The CyArk 500 Challenge represents the next stage in our digital preservation movement.

Earlier this month, CyArk held the first meeting of the CyArk 500 Advisory Council. The Council will play a critical role in the 500 by creating a list of criteria for a site’s inclusion in the 500. We are extremely honored to have current ICOMOS International president Gustavo Araoz chair the CyArk 500 Advisory Council. I am also delighted to have Sheridan Burke, Godden Mackay Logan; Bonnie Burnham, World Monuments Fund; Christina Cameron, Canada Research Chair on Built Heritage; Rohit Jigyasu, Ritsumeikan University; David Mitchell, Historic Scotland; and Nelly Robles, El Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) as additional members of the council.

The launch will be followed by a two-day conference attended by cultural heritage, technology, and philanthropy leaders from around the world. The launch and conference will bring together some of the world’s best minds and organizations to share experiences and best methods for capturing, disseminating and archiving information about these sites. The aim is to increase awareness of the need for heritage documentation and preservation, create best practices within the field, embrace new technologies, and find creative ways to increase funding for these initiatives.

We look forward to sharing more information about the Launch and Conference as the event grows nearer and hope you will save the date on your calendars.
CyArk will launch the 500 Challenge at the Tower of London this October.