Ukraine 3D Scans Valuable Artifacts Before Russia Destroys Them

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“Destroying a country’s cultural heritage is the quickest way to erase its national identity.”

Digitization culture

Ukrainians are using 3D modeling technology to preserve cultural heritage sites – before they risk being destroyed by the Russian invasion.

It’s a dark use of technology, making digital backups of statues and other important public artifacts that may soon be turned into piles of rubble.

The project, called Backup Ukraine, was organized by smartphone camera capture app Polycam, which has partnered with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Vice Media Group, the Danish nonprofit Blue Shield Danmark, the Ukrainian Heritage Emergency Rescue Initiative, and the National Museum of History of Ukraine.

“Destroying a country’s cultural heritage is the quickest way to erase its national identity,” reads the project’s website. “In light of Russia’s false denial of Ukrainian sovereignty and unique national identity, we take the destruction of the country’s history very seriously.

Digital preservation

The goal is to scan just about anything that has cultural value.

The company is actively seeking volunteers who can use their smartphones and the Polycam app, now free in Ukraine, to turn virtually anything into three-dimensional reconstructions.

“We want to put this new technology in the hands of Ukrainian citizens so they can capture anything they deem culturally important to be preserved forever in 3D,” the website says.

Polycam has agreed to provide hosting for all analyzes for at least the next five years, all of which can be viewed here. So far, local citizens have scanned a variety of objects, from Russian tanks to simple Jenga block towers.

Given the obvious dangers of walking the streets of Ukraine at this time, the company advises participants to “stay safe at all times! adding a caveat to “Respect curfews and do not attempt to be captured in areas of immediate conflict”.

The invasion creates a depressing situation, but at least the residents find innovative ways to hold on to their shared history, even if only in the form of ephemeral digital representations of what once was.

Learn more about Ukraine: Ukraine Says Dumb Russian Soldiers Tracked Radiative Materials All Over Chernobyl, Then Abandoned Them

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