As Ukrainian citizens fight for their lives and country, groups and individuals among them are working to physically save Ukraine’s architecture and cultural heritage. According to a new initiative from the Danish UNESCO National Commission, Blue Shield Denmark and Polycam called “Backup Ukraine“, as the war carries on, untold numbers of antiquities and monuments are being actively removed from harm’s way, where possible. But many others have already been or will be lost.
The initiative invites civilians to digitally preserve their nation by using Polycam on newer iPhones or iPads to capture objects or even rooms in 3D. The core Polycam product is being distributed to create a means for any person in Ukraine to quickly and easily scan and upload digital renderings of important architecture, statues, and monuments.
The initiative is creatively initiated and coordinated by the research and innovation arm within Virtue, the agency powered by VICE.
“War claims more than lives. It can cost a country irreversible damage to its national spirit,” said Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, chair of The Danish UNESCO National Commission.
“By destroying the symbols of its values, pride, and history — the very things its identity is built upon. This is why the protection of cultural heritage is crucial for any conflict. And during an ongoing war, traditional methods of cultural preservation are under pressure. So innovative technologies are a very welcome assistance. This is why The Danish UNESCO National Commission strongly supports Backup Ukraine. It is our hope that it will help preserve Ukraine’s cultural heritage for posterity during this time of unbearable loss.”
Ukraine is home to seven World Heritage Sites, designated by UNESCO for holding cultural importance and legally protected. Visual data captured and saved via the Polycam app will be translated into digital replicas that can be shared with the whole world, shining a light on Ukraine’s beautiful and unique culture, and saved into the cloud. In the event works are partially or completely destroyed, those saved on the platform will be available to aid in reconstruction.
“Destroying a country’s cultural heritage is the fastest way to undermine its national identity,” said Søren la Cour Jensen, chair of Blue Shield Denmark.
“Our mission in Blue Shield is to work before, during and after a catastrophe or armed conflict to help protect and rescue our shared heritage. As we have learned after World War II and many later conflicts, saving a country’s cultural heritage is the best path to reconstruction and revival of society. Total loss is our greatest fear, and Backup Ukraine provides a new and important tool that can prevent that.”
“We have watched, along with the rest of the world, as Ukraine has suffered such needless destruction,” said Elliot Spelman, co-founder at Polycam.
“As Ukraine’s cities and neighborhoods are attacked, so is its culture. We, as individuals and a company, wish to lend our technology to the citizens of Ukraine to digitally preserve any artifact, monument, structure or building and aid this important initiative in every way that we can.”
Morten Grubak, global ECD, innovation at Virtue added: “Right now we are witnessing an incredible human response to the war in Ukraine, with people across the globe contributing in whatever ways they can, from going to fight for Ukraine to making donations to NGOs and much more. As creatives, we asked ourselves how we could help, and saw the news about people working to save Ukraine’s art. We are artists at heart and fundamentally believe in the importance it plays in our lives. This idea came to mind almost instantly and within days we were able to connect with Polycam and put this product in place. We sincerely hope it helps.”