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  /  Latest News   /  3D Modeling Saving Ukraine’s Heritage: Need for Tech Archivists
3D modeling

3D Modeling Saving Ukraine’s Heritage: Need for Tech Archivists

3D modeling is helping Ukraine to get back what it has lost in the ongoing war in 2022

In popular perception, digital technology is often seen as a development that is too modern, too fast, and too aggressively innovative to indulge in the act of archiving. There are several instances to prove this perception partial, if not flawed by tech archivists. The most recent instance in this context is to be found in the case of Ukraine, a country now besieged by a destructive war with Russia. War does not only wreck destruction physically, it also unleashes violence against cultural institutions and artifacts. Special care has been taken by the Russian army to destroy several cultural heritage sites in Ukraine, including the iconic theatre and monastery. As a necessary resistance gesture, digital experts and tech archivists from other parts of the world are involving themselves in preserving the cultural heritage of Ukraine. 3D modeling is proposed to be extensively used for this purpose, lending it the status of a game-changer. This kind of initiative needs our close attention, especially when we debate the role of new digital technology and its angular relations with the heritage of Ukraine.

The fundamental idea is to identify the at-risk cultural sites and use digital technology to preserve them. 3D modeling comes in handy here. Though it originated nearly half a century back it has continuously improved its capabilities and sharpened its performance through hi-fidelity models. One of its prime operational areas is the preservation of cultural heritage objects and environments. In contrast to its tech predecessor, the static 2D forms of documentation like plans, sections, elevations, and reconstructions in paper-based print form 3D modeling rests on interactive digital tools and technologies.

To refer to a concrete case, a project called Backup Ukraine has been launched in Ukraine, which uses 3D modeling to preserve cultural heritage sites and artifacts. Based on a special volunteer squad the project was created in collaboration with the Danish National Committee of UNESCO, the Danish non-profit organization Blue Shield Denmark, Polycom, and Vice Media Group in close cooperation with the Ukrainian Heritage in Emergency Initiative, and the National Museum of the History of Ukraine. The project, along with tech archivists wishes to keep the items online for at least the next five years. It calls upon ordinary people of Ukraine to come forward to preserve their heritage by scanning and making 3D models through phones but it does with a caution about the risk of doing it in a war-torn country. 3D modeling also is on the agenda of SUCHO (Saving Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online) which consists of more than 1,300 cultural heritage professionals – librarians, tech archivists, researchers, programmers – who have come together to identify and archive at-risk sites, digital content, and data in Ukrainian cultural heritage institutions. They claim that till now they have saved more than 30TB of scanned documents, artworks, and many other digital materials from more than 3,500 websites of Ukrainian museums, libraries, and archives. A SUCHO activist mentions that people will be able to navigate the site and browse through it and experience the content, the images, “as if the site were live”.

Such digital initiatives have to be developed and expanded further because the existing ‘physical’ preventive measures are proving to be inadequate. Thus, the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict in 1954, is supposed to prevent cultural objects from being heeded. Russia in fact is a signatory of the Convention. Also, attempts at protecting cultural sites and objects by heaping sandbags are proving to be of little use. The bottom line: to indulge in such an endeavor we need more tech archivists and virtual heritage practitioners from among the digital technologists.