This paper is part of the 2017 3D Digital Documentation Summit.
Technology for the People: Developing a Low Cost Heritage Documentation Kit to spur Innovation in Digital Preservation
Speaker 1: Good morning.
So, if you didn’t know, CyArk is a 501C3 nonprofit with the mission to capture, archive, and share the world’s cultural heritage, but moving beyond the mechanics of our mission, our greater vision is to ignite wonder, curiosity, and a shared understanding of our past. And we do this by bringing about awareness to the architectural achievements of the people who came before us, and showing that today we are not so different than the ancestors around the world.
So, CyArk was founded in response to the loss of cultural heritage around the world. Sites are constantly under threat, whether it’s from human induced destruction, neglect, the simple passage of time, or natural disasters like floods and earthquakes. These are some images from Bagan, Myanmar where we’re currently working.
CyArk was founded to counteract these threats by providing a digital record of these places so that if they are damaged, this archive can be used for restoration activities. Since its founding in 2003, CyArk has documented over 200 sites on all seven continents. These sites range from places of local, or national importance like Mt. Rushmore in the United States, to sites that are internationally recognized. We have worked at UNESCO-tentative sites like Chankillo in Peru, and Bagan, Myanmar like I’ll talk about later, as well as UNESCO properties like Neolithic Orkney in Scotland, and the Sydney Opera House.
CyArk’s work is made possible through our partnerships with different corporations and organizations. We have different types of partners but two of our biggest sustaining are Iron Mountain and Seagate, who help us archive and store all the data that we capture. Other corporate sponsors fund projects or provide in-kind support. The project that we’re currently completing in Myanmar is funded by the Google Cultural Institute, for example. And CyArk’s relationship with the heritage community is extremely important. We work with international heritage bodies like UNESCO and ICOMOS, to gain access to sites, as well as understand priorities within countries. We also work with state organizations, like the National Park Service, and its equivalents around the world.
And finally, our relationships with universities are incredibly important. This year we’re working with the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage in learning how to better open our archive for use around the world, especially in the Middle East, and we’re also working with Carlton University in Canada, helping us create better conservation products for sites.
So, what we do in a nutshell. When I talk about CyArk and what CyArk does, we can think about it in three major areas. Its towards the conservation, recovery, and discovery of cultural heritage. In the conservation sphere, CyArk attempts to assist site managers in ongoing conservation work through training programs as well as producing conservation deliverables. In the recovery aspect, CyArk makes its archive available in the case of a catastrophic event, this was in Uganda the Kasubi Tombs were subject to arson, and UNESCO used the data that we had captured years previously to reconstruct the tombs. And then finally in the discovery portion by helping people learn and engage with these amazing places. The last image is life-size screening of some of our 3D data in a museum in the Netherlands.
So, we use the latest 3D reality capture technologies along with rigorous methods to create these incredibly detailed mesh models. So the three technologies that we use are laser-scanning, LIDAR, which creates an incredibly accurate geometry of the site. Photogrammetry, which gives us hyper-realistic phototexture, and we also use drones to complete aerial capture of areas that would be hard to reach otherwise. These technologies work together to create an incredibly complex digital model that can be sliced and used by heritage professionals.
CyArk’s methods are constantly evolving as technology changes, and one of the biggest advances that we have seen in the past few years is advances in photogrammetry. While camera sensors have improved nominally in the past few years, we really have seen the biggest changes in cloud computing and the software that can take these large photosets and create models. So, what CyArk uses is Capturing Reality, which is a software solution that allows you combine laser scan data as well as photogrammetric documentation.
So, along with these technological improvements, we’ve also witnessed an increase in heritage destruction, especially in the Middle East. Syria, Iraq, and Yemen have witnessed some of the worst, and coming out of these two converging movements, CyArk launched Project Anqa in 2015, which comes from the Arabic word for Phoenix, which recognizes that while certain sites are inaccessible during conflict, there are other sites within the region that are available to be scanned. So it is possible to proactively document these sites on an emergency basis using these technologies.
So Project Anqa is a collaboration between ICOMOS, and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. So during the launching of Project Anqa, CyArk applied for a grant from NCPTT for the creation of a low-cost documentation kit. The kit would allow users to deploy into the field quickly without the need for a laser scanner. In developing the kit, we were faced with the challenge of how we’re going to scale these models, and adjust this by including a laser DISTO. So, inside the kit it includes a digital camera, a laser DISTO, a tablet computer, as well as a GPS. Included as well are tutorials and video guides that leave best practices and how to complete data capture, processing and completion of the final products.
So CyArk completed several trainings, one to the University of Colorado at Denver, the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, and then a final training at the UNESCO offices in Beirut, Lebanon, where heritage professionals throughout the Middle East could come together. So, right now the kit is currently being utilized in Aleppo in Syria, and so I get WhatsApp updates from the team on the ground on how their documentation is progressing. This is some photos of us in the Beirut office, as well as our documentation of a site near in Lebanon, so there was frescoes and mosaics that the team captured. This is a throne room that was documented by the participants and then again like we saw previously, they uploaded the files to a Sketchfab. Finally, this is an image from within Damascus of students using the kit.
So, key takeaways from the kit reinforce our understanding that heritage groups want a training that equips them from beginning to end. From the capturing to the processing. And while the kit was designed to rely on photogrammetry, the situation on the ground is extremely dynamic, and some heritage institutions may have access to a laser scanner. For example, in Beirut, the Lebanese archeologists had access to an older Leica, and so our training incorporated also laser and scanning.
Recognizing these different technologies available to groups as well as the different conservation goals, CyArk has designed a series of workshops that will accompany any documentation project that we complete in the future. These workshops consist of 3D site documentation with laser scanning, terrestrial photogrammetry for point of interest documentation, and finally site plan generation through aerial imagery and GIS. We also have an introductory workshop that we give that gives a broad overview of all three. So these, again, are just reinforcing the three primary technologies that CyArk utilizes.
And while sites will differ on their different priorities, when it’s possible, CyArk attempts to use all three in any project that it completes, because we believe that the final model is much richer, and can be used for a variety of different heritage deliverables.
So, this suite of technologies was most recently used in Myanmar, where CyArk is actually currently there right now. We first traveled to Bagan, Myanmar in 2016, in June 2016. And if you’re not familiar, Bagan, Myanmar is this valley in central Myanmar where there’s over 3,000 Buddhist monuments that were built between the 11th and 12th centuries, and they’re built of unreinforced brick masonry. And so we documented using our different technologies and completed a training there, but unfortunately several months following our training, there was an earthquake in August of 2016, and many of the monuments were damaged.
So, the CyArk was asked by UNESCO to go back to the site and perform additional documentation so that we could compare the before and after models of the temples that we documented as well as producing conservation deliverables for the temples that were most seriously damaged. So because we had these high fidelity meshes we could cut them, and slice them to create elevations as well as sections that could inform the conservation work. So here you’re looking at some exterior facades of some temples as well as some frescoes on the roof that were damaged during the quake. See there some additional conservation products that we created, including contour lines which was generated from our models, so this is just through our GIS, we’re creating a workflow where these temples were documented via drone, and then we’re creating contour lines that actually – because Bagan is not yet a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we have to include this documentation for their nomination.
So, one of the things I’m most excited about is the fact that these virtual reality is coming into its own, and the potential … We can take these models and actually have people explore them. So, CyArk has always focused on supporting the exploration of sites in meaningful and educational ways, but the captured data that we captured since 2003 was often too big to render, and people with personal computers couldn’t actually digest the data. So, we relied historically on photo tours as well as decimated models and animations to convey the significance of sites, but due to advances in headset and computing technology, we’re able to actually take people to Bagan, for example.
So this is a view of inside the headset viewer, in Bagan, so not only you can experience a site visually, you can actually use, due to the motion tracking of virtual reality you can actually walk through the site, you can go underneath the arches and inspect the Buddhas up close within the temples. So this is something I’m really excited about, and its a different way to ignite curiosity. I don’t think we discovered the-
Speaker 2: We’re using the latest reality capture technology-
Speaker 1: I’ll just talk over it. Can you hear that, or?
Speaker 2: … We are able to capture every nook and cranny of the sites, and with the emergence of virtual reality technology, can now share that with the world.
Speaker 1: So we’ve taken to about ten Bay Area schools-
Speaker 3: Imagine being able to explore ancient rock art sites in South Africa, or climb to the top of Mt. Rushmore. We can take you there, and with your help we can bring this experience to people all around the world. By bringing these sites and experiences to kids and being able to take them to places like Southeast Asia or to ancient Greece, it can completely change their perspective on who they are, and where they fit within this wider world.
Speaker 4: Teachers sometimes struggle to get their kids into what they’re learning. So when you have that opportunity to take them to a place and they get to see it, and feel it, interact with it, you get a lot more buy-in from students.
Speaker 5: You can actually like, walk around, jump place to place, that felt really real.
Speaker 6: It was cool because you got a different experience that you wouldn’t expect, ’cause I got to like, pick stuff up and feel how it would be if you were actually there.
Speaker 7: It’s like I’m actually like, there and experiencing it, not just like, “Oh, there’s a picture of Mt. Rushmore, wow.”
Speaker 8: I think we talk about 21st century learning, a lot of that is not just teaching our students in a different way, but it’s also allowing our students to really think about and engage with the world in a different way. And that I think is the beauty of CyArk.
Speaker 3: Consider how your travels have shaped you as a human being. Now imagine being able to give that gift to children all over the world, regardless of their geography or income. That’s what CyArk’s trying to do. You can help us do that.
Speaker 1: So this is actually in Bagan, Myanmar, we got to take it to a Buddhist monastery, so that was pretty cool. So thank you very much.
Our Heritage is at risk. Cultural heritage sites are becoming collateral victims of the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters, both natural and human induced. Last year, with help from a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT), CyArk developed a low-cost heritage documentation kit for use by heritage professionals around the world. CyArk believes that through technological advancements and harnessing the collective power of non-technical heritage professionals and non-professional technology enthusiasts, we can counter the loss of our heritage by creating a global community of digital preservationists.
The kit includes a digital camera, laser distance meter, tablet computer, GPS receiver and a compact tripod. Accompanying the kit are video tutorials on how to digitally document a site as well as upload the data to the internet. This inexpensive system, under $1500, can be deployed quickly and relies on advances in photogrammetry software combined with limited laser scan measurements to quickly and accurately document heritage sites requiring only moderate technical ability. Three kits were deployed by CyArk and were given to the the Center of Preservation Research (CoPR) at the university of Colorado Denver, the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands (CEMML) and UNESCO.The hardware inventory and accompanying materials are made freely available to any interested parties via the CyArk website.
While we cannot physically save all at-risk heritage sites, empowering more individuals with the skills to perform 3D digital documentation paired with archiving can be the first step to save our history. This baseline can then serve as the foundation to a complete subsequent documentation and enable future conservation of the sites.
Following work on the heritage documentation kit and motivated by software developments over the past several years that allow laser scan data to be used in conjunction with photogrammetric documentation, CyArk has revamped its own heritage documentation methods in order to utilize both technologies to the fullest degree. The combination of both datasets has resulted in more realistic digital models with even higher resolution, providing the most accurate documentation to date of a site and allowing future site managers to better gauge deterioration over time. In previous work CyArk aimed to document sites within a margin of error of 5 mm where new methods are projected to provide submillimetre accuracy.
CyArk’s principle capture technology remains LiDAR laser scanning as it provides an incredibly accurate and measurable mesh model of the site. However, CyArk increasingly employs UAV’s and photogrammetry rigs (with multiple cameras mounted in concert) to capture thousands of photos that can be used to create an additional mesh that can be combined with the LiDAR model. Digital models produced from photogrammetry are incredibly realistic and are excellent ways to visually communicate the story of a site in a way that is easily understood by the public. Using both technologies, CyArk is able to produce a larger array of deliverables which can be used for a variety of conservation purposes as well as new interactive and immersive displays.
CyArk will present a case study of this process as utilized In June, 2016 when LiDAR and photogrammetry techniques were used to document a 12th Century Buddhist temple in central Myanmar. Just a few months later, in August, 2016, the same temple was damaged in a 6.8 magnitude earthquake. CyArk was able to return to the site to document the temple using the same methods. The extremely accurate models that were created from both field visits can be analyzed side by side to evaluate areas of damage and identify structural weakness.
Scott Lee is a technology and cultural heritage expert currently serving as the Director of Operations for CyArk, an international non-profit organization. Mr. Lee coordinates all aspects of CyArk’s programs which capture, archive and enable virtual access to the world’s cultural heritage. He has worked on over 100 cultural heritage sites including training international professionals in collaboration with UNESCO and multiple foreign ministries. Mr. Lee comes from a background in Architecture and Design, completing a Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Oregon with a focus on sustainable design. Mr. Lee is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Committee for Documentation of Cultural Heritage (CIPA).
Kacey Hadick received his BA in Archaeology from the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and a Master’s in World Heritage Management and Cultural Projects for Development from the University of Turin, Italy. He has worked as an archaeologist for five years and has collaborated extensively with Native American communities in California and Nevada. His research interests include human effects on the natural environment and utilizing technology and culture as catalysts for economic development. His work has been published in the University of California Press, the Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology and American Antiquity.