War-ravaged landmarks of Ukraine are digitally preserved


The Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol once featured 2,000 exhibits and an extensive collection of prominent Ukrainian artworks. On March 23 City Council confirmed to NBC News that the Russian military had destroyed it.

Now the Danish UNESCO National Commission and Blue Shield Denmark are launching a new project aimed at at least digitally preserving Ukraine’s important architecture, statues and monuments, many of which are endangered during the Russian invasion of the country. “Backup Ukraine” leverages and distributes Polycam, a powerful prosumer app that allows you to use an iPhone or iPad to 3D scan any physical object to give anyone in Ukraine a means to quickly and easily create digital renderings of important Scan and upload points of interest.

Originally conceived by Virtue – Vice’s in-house creative agency – the idea is to use the visual data captured and stored with the Polycam app to create digital replicas that can be shared with the world and potentially aid in reconstruction . Ukraine has seven world heritage sites, recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance, but Backup Ukraine’s goals go well beyond that. Polycam, UNESCO and Blue Shield Denmark are not Virtue clients, but the agency brought the partners together.

Tao Thomsen, Virtue’s creative director of innovation, says UNESCO has never done anything like this, and while Polycam scanned a small mining town with drones as an experiment, it was not in the context of war and not in collaboration with museums or other authorities in the field of cultural preservation.

“The idea came out of genuine fear of what would happen if Putin managed to erase the material foundations of their history,” says Thomsen. “Polymetric scanning is one of our ’10 Obsessions,’ technologies that we believe have game-changing potential just around the corner and through which we look at current events to develop novel and thought-provoking applications.”

Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, Chair of the Danish National Commission for UNESCO, said in a statement: “War costs more than lives. It can cost a country irreversible damage to its national spirit. . . . That is why protecting cultural heritage is crucial to any conflict. And during an ongoing war, traditional preservation methods come under pressure. Innovative technologies are a very welcome help here.”

Backup Ukraine does not recommend that civilians attempt to capture works in the public domain without first enlisting in a volunteer corps coordinated by representatives of the Ukrainian Heritage Emergency Rescue Initiative. The app is only intended for use in areas not in immediate conflict or danger. War-ravaged landmarks of Ukraine are digitally preserved


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