The Arc/k Project Wins Heritage Award 

The Arc/k Project Wins Heritage Award 

The Arc/k Project recently won a heritage award in the Our World Heritage Moving Forward Global Competition. As one of the winning teams of this global technology competition, Arc/k will receive equipment and resources to support heritage preservation initiative in Syria.

The Arc/k Project will work in partnership with ARTIVE and The Day After Heritage Protection Initiative. Both organizations will adapt their databases and technical workflow to accommodate user needs such as literacy, language translation, and security. Project activities include education, advocacy and a capacity-building training program in photogrammetry and digital archiving for local Syrians. 

 

Learn more about Arc/k’s work in Syria: https://arck-project.org/initiatives/syria/

The Arc/k Project Wins Heritage Award 

The Arc/k Project partners with Artive to combat illicit trade

Working with colleagues from The Day After Heritage Protection Initiative and ATHAR Project, the Arc/k Project and ARTIVE seek to preserve Syrian heritage and protect against illicit trafficking of cultural heritage and artifacts in Syria. In partnership with Syrians living near the museum, the non-profit organization partners will focus their initial efforts on protecting the Ma’arrat al-Nu’man Museum in Idlib, Syria.

In February 2021, the cultural heritage technology organizations submitted a successful letter of interest to the Our World Heritage Moving Forward Global Competition, and have been shortlisted as one of the finalists. Winners will be announced in April 2021.

 

Together, they seek to engage local communities near the Ma’arrat al-Nu’man Museum to provide training and technical assistance in digital archiving, photogrammetry, and online registrations. Training can be accessed by average Syrians through portable broadband devices and satellite internet.  Local stakeholders will learn the technique of photogrammetry to register potentially illicit objects through data capture and transfer. Equipment, hardware and software will be provided to participants, along with online tutorials and 1-on-1 feedback sessions via video conferencing.

 

ARTIVE’s work intersects with the wider art market, which uses its database as part of due diligence and risk management tools. In conjunction with ARTIVE’s detailed provenance records and machine learning, even pieces, like the coveted mosaic tiles from Syria’s vulnerable Ma’arat Al-Nu’man Museum, can be evaluated if fragments resembling tile sections end up on the market. The data from the digital object registrations could also help archaeologists reconstruct a crime. 

“The importance of this partnership is manyfold. As an organization which has always prioritised and sought out collaboration with like-minded non-profits, this partnership is strengthening our vision of a “coming-together of knowledge, resources and missions,” shared Ariane Moser, Chief Operations Officer at ARTIVE. 

Both organizations will adapt their databases and technical workflow to accommodate user needs such as literacy, language translation, and security. This is also a great opportunity to join forces on the ground and contribute to learning from the local Syrian community in order to best protect their cultural heritage for generations to come.

 

Learn more about Arc/k’s work in Syria: https://arck-project.org/initiatives/syria/

The Arc/k Project’s 3D model sets the stage for virtual international conference

The Arc/k Project’s 3D model sets the stage for virtual international conference

Roman Theatre at Palmyra: Interior, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project. width=

The Arc/k Project is thrilled to set the stage at the international online conference hosted by NETCHER on March 1-2, 2021.  Arc/k provided our digital 3D model of Palmyra’s Roman Theater for the virtual environment of this Final Forum Online event.

Netcher project (NETwork and social platform for Cultural Heritage Enhancing and Rebuilding) aims at building an information network and a chart of good practices at European scale by gathering a maximum number of actors engaged in cultural preservation. The Arc/k Project values the opportunity to align our research and cultural heritage archiving with opportunities which promote mutual learning and coordination.

 

Arc/k’s Creative Process for Virtual Palmyra

To create the theater, Arc/k used the technique of crowdsourced photogrammetry. Crowdsourced photogrammetry is a technique of analyzing thousands of photos to reconstitute lost, damaged, or destroyed sites in 3D and in virtual reality. Arc/k gathered more than 10,000 images and photographs of the artifacts captured by tourists, academics, and surveyors between five and ten years before ISIS arrived. After digitally preserving the images, photos were analyzed, and photogrammetry software was adapted to accept photos from many cameras and lenses. Without CGI or other artificial digital manipulations, we were able to achieve viable, detailed 3D models of the ancient ruins in Palmyra.

Perpetuity | Palmyra consists of several sites: the Temple of Bel, the Arch of Triumph, The Roman Theater, and the Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma’ani Castle in Palmyra, Syria.

 

Perpetuity | Palmyra by The Arc/k Project consists of several sites: the Temple of Bel, the Arch of Triumph, The Roman Theatre, and the Fakhr-al-Din al-Ma’ani Castle in Palmyra, Syria graphicImage:  3D Model development of Roman Theater of Palmyra, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project

We hope these 3D models can be used to educate and re-establish the destroyed sites for the benefit of the Syrian people and the restoration of their cultural heritage.

“It goes without saying that our collective cultures play an invaluable role in how we live our lives as well as how societies rebuild after such a national trauma,” shared Brian Pope, Founder and Executive Director of The Arc/k Project. “Those currently on the ground in Syria have to rightfully prioritize citizens’ lives and humanitarian efforts over cultural preservation, but we saw an opening for everyday citizens to contribute by “mining” the past for photos of lost heritage. We believe that this sort of empowerment will not only show people of the region that they can make a difference but also it will allow for the archiving of such culture for all future generations.”

Image: Monumental Arch of Palmyra, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project.

 

NETCHER is a transnational project, started in January 2019, aims at reinforcing the fight against cultural heritage looting and trafficking, by bringing together relevant international actors and intends to build a sustainable social online Platform. Participants include security and research communities, public and private institutions, art market specialists and policy makers. The Final Forum will present overall results and achievements of the project, final recommendations, research and technology roadmaps, good practices and will address the issue of communication and awareness raising.

The recent US bombing in the region is a reminder that Syria continues to be ravaged by this now 10+ year war, putting all of its cultural heritage at risk. The Arc/k Project sees Perpetuity Palmyra as a valuable educational tool in a range of ways; not just a virtual site or textbook but also a beacon for the importance of preservation.

Explore Perpetuity Palmyra: the-arckives.org

Learn more about The Arc/k Project’s Cultural Heritage Initiative in Syria: https://arck-project.org/initiatives/syria/

Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project

Image: Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project.

Humans Behind the Heritage: Interview with Dr. Al-Azm – Part 2

Humans Behind the Heritage: Interview with Dr. Al-Azm – Part 2

Dr. Amr Al-Azm

Dr. Al-Azm

Dr. Al-Azm

Educated in the UK, Dr. Amr Al-Azm has held multiple archeological positions, teaching positions, and has excavated a number of sites. He was the Founder and Director of Scientific and Conservation Laboratories at the General Department of Antiquities and Museums (1999-2004) and Head of the Centre for Archaeological Research at the University of Damascus (2003-2006). He also taught at the University of Damascus through 2006. Currently, he is a professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio. 

While working in Syria, Dr. Al-Azm was a first-hand observer and sometime participant of the reform processes instigated by Bashar Al-Assad thus gaining insights into how they were enacted and why more often than not they failed. Furthermore, he is a keen follower and commentator on current events in Syria and the Middle East in general and has written articles in numerous journals, and major media outlets including guest editorials for the New York Times, Time Magazine and Foreign Policy.

Dr. Al-Azm with students in the Maara Museum, 2005.

Image: Dr. Al-Azm with students in the Ma’ara Museum, 2005.

He is one of the founders and is a Board Member of The Day After (TDA) a Syrian-led civil society organization working on supporting democratic transition, justice, and sustainable peace in Syria. He was a member of the Executive Committee of The Day After Project and its Economic Restructuring and Social Policy working group. He coordinates the Heritage Protection Initiative (TDA-HPI) for cultural heritage protection at TDA. He also serves as a Co-Director of the The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, an investigative study led by a collection of anthropologists and heritage experts digging into the digital underworld of transnational trafficking, terrorism financing, and organized crime. The ATHAR Project is affiliated with TDA-HPI and is a proud partner of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online.

Community Partner with The Arc/k Project
The Arc/k Project has worked with Dr. Al-Azm to help digitally preserve and protect cultural heritage sites in Syria, exchange training and translation services, and successfully test a methodology for teaching anthropology in group virtual reality with twenty academics and students. Through videoconferencing, Arc/k trained The Day After team in Syria how to use photogrammetry techniques to capture cultural sites, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites Dead Cities and Krak des Chevaliers. Dr. Al-Azm’s experiences in archaeology, research, international relations and education helps Arc/k expand our engagement with the multi-faceted, international efforts and applications for digital heritage preservation. 

In September 2020, we interviewed him to learn more about his work and perspectives. In Part 1, we discussed the potential and impact of 3D and Virtual Reality in digital heritage preservation and education. Part 2 focuses on his work with The Day After, Heritage Protection Initiative and the ATHAR Project. 

ARC/K: We’d love for you to share about The Day After. 

AL-AZM: The Day After is a nongovernmental organization a few of my colleagues and I co-founded back in 2012. The initial idea of The Day After was born out of the need that became very clear to Syrians who were trying to not only come to grips with the whole Arab Spring, but who also were trying to address questions and concerns from both inside and outside Syria. There were people inside Syria asking me and others here in the U.S. including state departments and journalists –they were all asking us this question: “What is your vision?” “So ok, you all want change, you want Assad to go, but what is your vision? What is your alternative?” The Day After stemmed from that.

Information session on women’s rights in elections, The Day After

Information session on women’s rights in elections, The Day After

May 2011 was the beginning of the idea of forming the need for some sort of answer to that question of what is our vision. And the best way to answer that is to go to Syrians and say, ‘What do we think our vision is going to be?’

So The Day After started off as a project to bring together as many Syrians as we could. We set up a series of meetings in Berlin, from February 2012 through June 2012 with the view of looking at several core areas, including Transitional Justice, Constitutional Reform, Security Sector Reform, Economic and Social Reform. These areas were what we thought were core areas we could build a vision around. We brought all these Syrians together and we had a series of meetings to discuss them, and then we published The Day After document.

Theoretically, that should have been it. Given the Syrian opposition, in the midst of the Arab Spring and the ongoing uprising there– which was by then already shifting into a confrontation between the regime and the opposition– during that summer of 2012 – it gave them something. It gave them some sort of platform, something to look at.

Arab Spring - 2011

Image: A collage for MENA protests. Clockwise from top left: 2011 Egyptian revolution, Tunisian revolution, 2011 Yemeni uprising, 2011 Syrian uprising. The original uploader was HonorTheKing at English Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Then the question was what do we do, and so then we created this NGO called The Day After, based off of The Day After Project. The Day After stands for The Day After Assad. That was the thinking because we all thought the regime was going to pull, sooner or later, and that this was going to be almost like a blueprint or some sort of vision of what could be done or what we could start working towards after. And so we took that and started to say, now why don’t we start to implement and follow up on our own recommendations, and on some of the things that came up and were discussed in the conversations that occurred in those meetings. 

The primary mission of The Day After is to promote a democratic transition in Syria. We have five main sectors that I mentioned. We added cultural heritage as another main area that should become very important in terms of helping Syrians come together, helping Syrians transition from a war state to post-conflict stabilization and reconciliation.

ARC/K: In recent communications from The Day After, we see you’ve organized a Zoom panel ‘Justice for Victims in Syria – is it achievable through international tribunals?’ and you are raising awareness on the human right to civil documentation. What would you like to highlight in terms of TDA’s advocacy efforts and campaigns?

AL-AZM: A lot of the work that we do today in terms of advocacy – actual activity – is to help the world and help Syrians continue to understand what has happened to them throughout history, but also to seek to find ways to look for a post-conflict environment.

In order to have post-conflict, for example, stabilization and reconciliation…at one point, we will need to come together and talk to each other. There needs to be certain issues that are addressed. 

How do we address the grievances? People have lost their life, their property. People have been imprisoned, tortured, killed. How do we manage this whole process of a transition and with a notion of justice?  What does transitional justice mean to Syrians? Does it mean eye for an eye, in the extreme biblical sense of ‘you killed my brother, so I kill two of your brothers’? They are doing that right now. Or does it mean something else? What models are there from around the world of long-term extended conflicts, where they’ve had atrocities committed, and what can we learn from them?

Survivors Program
One of the important things that TDA has been able to do is to go and get Syrians to talk about this; giving Syrians and women an opportunity to talk about some of the horrors they’ve experienced, in the survivors program. Empowering them, encouraging them and giving them the basic tools to tell their stories, we give them a safe space to express.

And remember, for women who have been violated, tortured, imprisoned, they have to deal with not just the terrors and horrors and trauma of it when they were taken and tortured, but they also have to deal with the aftermath effects of the society – the rejection, the stigmatization, and all of that that comes with it.

So you need to not just help these women find ways to tell their stories, but you also have to find ways to help their society figure out how to accept them, how to transition, how to adapt in this situation. So all of these are various ways in which TDA has tried to contribute.

ARC/K: We also read about your work to protect Syrians’ rights to civil documentation, and that the government is taking away these rights.

AL-AZM: Yes, if you don’t exist, they can take your land, your property. You don’t exist; you’ve been erased! One of the biggest concerns that Syrians have is property rights. Before the war, the government could reappropriate the land, misuse it to build buildings on it, and/or confiscate land with very small compensation. If you have no land records, they can just take it away. Another thing that was happening was that land registries were being destroyed willfully. You can’t prove it’s your land if it’s been destroyed. Victors can redistribute land among themselves.

One of the programs that we started in 2014 was we went around to try to gather these documents from as many of these places, and scan these documents so that someone, somewhere in the future, would be able to say ‘I own this land. Even though you burned it and you destroyed it, here is some form of paperwork to show proof’. So they would be able to use these records and evidence as their home. We just signed an agreement with the Finnish government and another partner to help us manage a database. TDA has a lot of partners to gather this information from all over Syria.

ARC/K: Thank you for sharing about TDA’s advocacy efforts. We appreciate the multiple facets of your work and how TDA covers so much, with a holistic approach. Next, we’d like to talk about your efforts in combatting illicit trade of cultural artifacts. The Atlantic articleArchaeologists Defied ISIS. Then They Took on Facebook.” was super informative and heart wrenching. It really does paint a picture about how pervasive the illicit trade is and the difficulty involved with making even a small dent in it. Thanks again for including us. 

The technology for identification will need to be at least as savvy and nimble as these networks. We hope Arc/k can serve our part.  When you think of the intersection of technology and the efforts to stop international illicit trade, what are the technical issues? Who are the players that need to be on board?

Image: header image of The Atlantic Article “Archaeologists Defied ISIS. Then They Took on Facebook.”

Image: header image of The Atlantic Article “Archaeologists Defied ISIS. Then They Took on Facebook.”

AL-AZM: Illicit trade and antiquities–you have to see it as a bridge. You have a supply end and a demand end. Any military person or general would tell you, the only way to take a bridge is to take it from both ends at once. It’s much harder to take a bridge by taking one end, without taking the other. So when we come to illicit trafficking, sale, and trade, you have to take the supply end and the demand end. And there are different strategies for each end.

On the supply end, you’re going to use a range of different techniques, for example, increased cooperation from various local, state and non-state actors. State agencies, local law enforcement– you try and support them, educate them, and give them better tools. But you really need to work with local non-state actors because they face the greater burden, even in stable states, not just in war-torn conflict-ridden states.

Heritage Protection Initiative
The greatest burden there, especially in Syria, is going to be on non-state actors. That means working with local activists, archaeologists, communities and women. At our Heritage Protection Initiative website, you can see all the workshops that we’ve been doing, where we’ve been trying to educate local communities.

Remember, women and children are the real backbone for this. The women are critical because they’re looking after the children. The children, if they can be educated, will grow up one day and have this training with them. So it’s about raising awareness and just trying to explain it to people.

Cultural Heritage Tourism
A lot of it is changing attitudes as well. Let’s say you find a mosaic. If you rip that out, you just killed a goose to get one egg. If you leave that in, and then the state and local community come around, they help build that up into some local attraction. Then one day, tourists will want to come visit, and then you’ll have a sustainable business around it and for generations to come.

Subsistence Looting
So there are ways of addressing the supply side. Yes there are armed entities, armed groups, mafias, etc., but a lot of the looting is what we refer to as subsistence looting. It’s by people whose lives have been destroyed by the conflict. They know that there is stuff buried there, they know that there’s demand for it, and so they dig it up and they try to make ends meet with it. For a lot of people, that’s all they’re doing. They’re not doing it because it’s fun for them or it happens to be a passion. They’re doing it because they’re trying to make ends meet.

Strategies to Combat the Demand of Illicit Trade and Antiquities
Moving from the supply side to the demand side, that is something obviously very different. Here you’re talking about Western countries, rich clients who can afford to buy the stuff. And much of this stuff is about due diligence–changing the laws so that it criminalizes the trade in looted antiquities. Enforcement. You think about the FBI art crime squad. In 2015, there were only 15 or 18 people to cover the entire United States–300 million people. It’s pathetic!
You have to put resources into this and you have to criminalize it.

And one of the ways to do that is to explain to people, hey, look if you are buying something that is looted, and especially from a war-torn region, there is a very good chance, that something in that piece, before it even gets to you, money would have been handed over at some point, to some very nasty local terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda or ISIS. So you can be prosecuted under the terrorism laws. It’s terrorism finance, because you are basically facilitating it. I think that will put the fear of God into them.

Right now, if I’m an art dealer, and you find a piece that is proven to have been stolen, and I’m selling it, I can just demonstrate good faith that I didn’t know. ‘So how come you didn’t know?’ ‘Oh the person who gave it to me swore on his mother’s grave that he didn’t.’ ‘Okay’. You think I’m exaggerating, I’m not.

 

Image: Plundered Heritage: The Antiquities Trade on Social Media, Alliance to Counter Crime Online

Image: Plundered Heritage: The Antiquities Trade on Social Media, Fact Sheet 1, Alliance to Counter Crime Online

ARC/K: Ignorance is not an excuse.

AL-AZM: We’re talking about how lackadaisical it is, and we’re not talking about a backstreet deal. We are talking about major auction houses, major dealers in New York, London and Paris, who will take stuff on with the barest minimum of due diligence because they know, what’s the worst case scenario? They think ‘I’ll sell tens of thousands of pieces every year. If one or two of those get found out to be stolen, then I’ll just give them back.’ In return, tens of thousands of pieces are passing through the system just fine.

Even when we’re talking about the legal trade, it’s funny. You walk into the British Museum or the Louvre or anywhere else in those countries and most of the museums are filled with items from where, from outside. If you’re thinking of an American museum, it should be filled with only, I guess, local Native American material, if that. Where does the other stuff come from? It comes from the fact, that at some point or another, in the life of almost any item on display in the museum, or privately, in someone’s collection, it has been looted at some point or another.

We have a legal trade.  We have a couple of interesting conventions, one of which is the Hague Convention of 1950 which came out of the second World War and the need to protect cultural heritage in times of war. There are certain rules about how you have to behave there. And then there was the 1970 UNESCO Convention – which basically says, that any object that has been around in circulation, but prior to 1970, you can trade it, as long as you demonstrate that. Anything after 1970, if it shows up on the market, unless it has an import/export license, then it’s looted. In 2019 there was a huge argument about an Egyptian piece being sold by Sotheby’s. It made all the big news and Egyptians went crazy. And the argument wasn’t about whether it was looted or not, the argument was whether it was after 1970. That was the fight. Noone was saying, you shouldn’t be looting it. They were focused on whether it was before or after 1970. The laws really have to change.

Even then, it might happen that you get a repatriation, and it’s not always straightforward. For example, let’s say they find a whole bunch of stuff from, let’s say Syria. Well no one is going to give Syria back its stuff. It’s in the midst of a war, you have a regime that is a pariah. If Afghanistan were still under the Taliban, would you give them back a whole bunch of stuff that would be confiscated? No, it’s very complicated.

Image: Example of a Red List artifact from Syria being trafficked on Facebook in ATHAR Project’s report ‘Facebook’s Black Market in Antiquities: ICOM Red List Artifacts Offered on Facebook’.

So the basic thing is that it’s not encouraged in the first place and we need to create the systems and the means to really make it very hard for people to openly trade what is essentially looted antiquities. Then, with Facebook and social media platforms, it’s open season. You have to stop it from being traded and sold openly. There are no checks and balances on that.

ARC/K: You bring up a good point. In a sense, as Americans, we sometimes think that technology is going to save us from everything. But, here we go, with Facebook you can do anything, send anything to anyone at any point, create these social networks, and yet it’s created a blossoming of these illicit trade networks.

And on the other side of that, there is the institutionalization of the looting by the larger auction houses. Like you said, it’s like the cost of doing business. They might be saying, oh well, there might be a few. Could you see a social media campaign used against them, to shame them, to get them to change their ways beyond a legal framework?

AL-AZM: I think there’s already a lot of that happening anyway. The only real change would be a change in the law–when you criminalize it. So that when you get caught doing something like that, it’s not going to be a slap on the wrist and you give it back. Instead, you’re going to go to jail for a very long time, because you’ve just been aiding and abetting terrorism and terrorists. That’s when you’re going to get a wake up call.

ATHAR Project

Image: Example of a Red List artifact from Syria being trafficked on Facebook in ATHAR Project’s report ‘Facebook’s Black Market in Antiquities: ICOM Red List Artifacts Offered on Facebook’.

ARC/K : We’ve also brainstormed a bit about a concept where we could help train Syrian expats to comb through Facebook data and monitor stolen Syrian cultural heritage assets. We could work with database partners and Interpol to track these digital objects.  

AMR: Right now, we’re looking at between 8 and 10,000 photos. They could grow so much more. We’re seeking funding in order to hire a few people to work on this archive and set up a database. We could have the team on the ground continuing to take updated photos and images, where you look at the archives of what we already have and you file those in terms of the damage, what was there and what came up. You could also then design and develop off of that structure, for emergency intervention projects to help save buildings which may be unstable or on the verge of collapse.

Image: Plundered Heritage: The Antiquities Trade on Social Media, Fact Sheet 2, Alliance to Counter Crime Online

Image: Plundered Heritage: The Antiquities Trade on Social Media, Fact Sheet 2, Alliance to Counter Crime Online

ARC/K: We look forward to keeping in touch about this approach of combating illicit trade. We are grateful to continue working together towards solutions and to further developing our research of 3D and VR applications in heritage preservation and protection. By empowering cultures in crisis to protect their own identity against illicit trafficking, digital poaching, vandalism, and ideological/religious warfare, we hope to put digital tools in the hands of those that can make a real difference.

 

Humans Behind the Heritage: Interview with Dr. Al-Azm – Part 1

Humans Behind the Heritage: Interview with Dr. Al-Azm – Part 1

Dr. Amr Al-Azm

Dr. Al-Azm

Dr. Al-Azm

Educated in the UK, Dr. Amr Al-Azm has held multiple archeological positions, teaching positions, and has excavated a number of sites. He was the Founder and Director of Scientific and Conservation Laboratories at the General Department of Antiquities and Museums (1999-2004) and Head of the Centre for Archaeological Research at the University of Damascus (2003-2006). He also taught at the University of Damascus through 2006. Currently, he is a professor of Middle East History and Anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio. 

While working in Syria, Dr. Al-Azm was a first-hand observer and sometime participant of the reform processes instigated by Bashar Al-Assad thus gaining insights into how they were enacted and why more often than not they failed. Furthermore, he is a keen follower and commentator on current events in Syria and the Middle East in general and has written articles in numerous journals, and major media outlets including guest editorials for the New York Times, Time Magazine and Foreign Policy.

Dr. Al-Azm with students in the Maara Museum, 2005.

Image: Dr. Al-Azm with students in the Ma’ara Museum, 2005.

He is one of the founders and is a Board Member of The Day After (TDA) a Syrian-led civil society organization working on supporting democratic transition, justice, and sustainable peace in Syria. He was a member of the Executive Committee of The Day After Project and its Economic Restructuring and Social Policy working group. He coordinates the Heritage Protection Initiative (TDA-HPI) for cultural heritage protection at TDA. He also serves as a Co-Director of the The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project, an investigative study led by a collection of anthropologists and heritage experts digging into the digital underworld of transnational trafficking, terrorism financing, and organized crime. The ATHAR Project is affiliated with TDA-HPI and is a proud partner of the Alliance to Counter Crime Online.

Community Partner with The Arc/k Project
The Arc/k Project has worked with Dr. Al-Azm to help digitally preserve and protect cultural heritage sites in Syria, exchange training and translation services, and successfully test a methodology for teaching anthropology in group virtual reality with twenty academics and students. Through videoconferencing, Arc/k trained The Day After team in Syria how to use photogrammetry techniques to capture cultural sites, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites Dead Cities and Krak des Chevaliers. Dr. Al-Azm’s experiences in archaeology, research, international relations and education helps Arc/k expand our engagement with the multi-faceted, international efforts and applications for digital heritage preservation. 

In September 2020, we interviewed him to learn more about his work and perspectives. In Part 1, we discussed the potential and impact of 3D and Virtual Reality in digital heritage preservation and education. Part 2 focuses on his work with The Day After, Heritage Protection Initiative and the ATHAR Project. 

ARC/K: We’d like to talk about your work in 3D, Virtual Reality in education and digital heritage preservation.

AL-AZM: Virtual Reality should never be seen as a replacement for the real thing. I don’t think they should be confused and it’s not a binary. It’s not an either/or — you either have VR or you have the real thing. You need both. And for me, at least, I see the future of cultural heritage preservation and heritage management in many ways, and in other areas too, attached and connected with VR. I think this is the future.

Education in Virtual Reality
I constantly talk about that with my colleagues as well. Just as today, when kids go to college, they have to save up for or invest in a laptop. One day they will have to invest in a VR set too–that will become part of their everyday toolkit.

When you think about COVID-19, and what we’re going through, can you imagine if classes right now were set up in VR form? The teachers and everybody else are teaching, and they are in VR, so you are in a room, in a VR state, and the teacher is standing in front of you and giving you their lesson, and you’re hearing and listening and interacting with the teacher. And the teacher, say, is giving a lesson on a castle. The teacher can take the students straight into the castle.  It’s not just a slide on a wall, or an image on the projector screen. They actually can go to the site. For example, at a battle site, I could describe the last battle on the site, show them the various points of attack, show them where people would have stood and their view. There are so many incredible possibilities.

Image: Virtual world technology VR glasses CC0

I think students get a much better experience and more of a chance. Not everybody learns in the same way. So the more ways you can present information to students; the more likely they are to learn. VR is very much the future and it should become standard. I don’t know if we have the technology all there, but I think we do. I’m not an expert on this. I really think this should become a standard kit that every student gets when they go to school or when they go to university. They buy their laptop, tablet, and VR kit.  And then they go to their lectures in VR, whether it’s in a classroom, at home, from the library, or wherever it is set up.

We should be able to have multiple entry points into the VR experience, because not all students have high speed internet, or not all students can afford the hardware and software you need to be able to run this. So you give the students the opportunity to use the one in their library, or use the one in the classroom, or use the one in their home, depending on what their abilities are, in terms of having access to this equipment. 

Image: Virtual Reality learning

I see it as the future, as to where we should be heading, especially if we’ve learned anything from COVID-19 and the lockdown. Some experts are saying this is going to become a pattern and that we should adapt to this kind of world in the future. This will be a way to help us address some of this issue, and it can really give us a much more interesting and informative way to exchange and pass on information to students. So that’s from the teaching end with VR.

Educational Cultural Perspective

ARC/K: One of the frequent critiques of Cultural Heritage and Virtual Reality is that it can be isolating, and that there is an impermanence to it because it’s a digital format. As your work more in 3D and our collaborations have evolved, are you developing any thoughts about effective VR or digital representation?

AL-AZM: From the educational cultural perspective, the possibilities are infinite. Can you imagine teaching medicine, teaching surgery and you want to demonstrate to students some sort of procedure? Instead of having students standing behind a glass wall or looking down from the gallery and you can’t really see because you’re too far away, or there is a limit of only two or three students in the operating room, now you can have your entire class all there and they’re watching, observing, and very close up in a VR setting, rather than watching a film. 

Screenshot of participants in pods, exploring Palmyra in the social VR ‘Portals to the Past’, The Arc/k Project, University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Virtual Academic Laboratory project.

Screenshot of participants in spheres, exploring Palmyra in the social VR ‘Portals to the Past’, The Arc/k Project, University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Virtual Academic Laboratory project.

ARC/K : So that sense of isolation can actually be the opposite in VR sometimes, at least in group VR. With our work together with the University of Oklahoma on our social VR session, ‘Portals to the Past’, could you tell us what it was like — teaching Palmyra in VR?

AL-AZM: It was natural for me once I got used to the motion sickness, which, like anything else, you just need to get some practice. To me, VR is the future. I don’t know why we are not doing it. COVID-19 should be the key.  It would be better if they were in the classroom in the VR setting as opposed to in their bedrooms on a screen.

Cultural Heritage Emergency Assessment in VR

But then there is the other practical application with VR. You have experts who need to go look at a problem or give expert advice in some type of intervention. Here we’re thinking of cultural heritage monuments under threat because of a conflict situation, or simply because the experts are 3000 miles away and it’s not very practical for them to get on a plane and go to that location. Again, COVID-19 is a good example of why we are not travelling. It’s a conflict. For example, you’re in Italy, and there is a war zone, and you don’t want to send your UNESCO expert to a building that is about to collapse or destabilize due to some natural or manmade problem. Or if it were the Ma’ara museum, it would be the airstrikes on the building that destabilized it. If an expert were able to put on VR, and then the local person there could give them a tour of the building, show them the damage, then they could see the issue for themselves.

So you would have the local guides get all the metadata, the images, so that you could set up the room or image of the damaged part of the building. Then the local individuals, those who are involved with the intervention implementation, the stabilization strategy, and the UNESCO expert would also all be there. In this case, they could take direct measurements using tools, and then they would go back and make a report or make immediate suggestions. Then, they could say, hey you need to reinforce A, and you would point at point A, and then reinforce point B, and C, and D, and this way the structure won’t collapse.

Image: Photogrammetric model of House - Shensherah, Dead Cities, Syria, TDA-HPI.

Image: Photogrammetric model of House – Shensherah, Dead Cities, Syria, TDA-HPI. Arc/k Project trained The Day After team on the ground how to capture local Syrian heritage sites using the technique of photogrammetry. 

ARC/K: The possibilities really open up.

AL-AZM: That’s the kind of future I see. Experts can have meetings in Virtual Reality where you can provide support, expertise, information, and educational support for people on the ground in areas where, for some reason or another, you can’t get to yourself, but you have people on the ground working and connected.

ARC/K: When reflecting on your work with The Day After, what is your ultimate goal?

AL-AZM: Syrians have suffered from the most traumatic experiences from this conflict. When you look at the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe, literally 50% of the population has been displaced. Syrians are going to have to talk to each other again, and what are they going to talk to each other about? That’s why we focus on heritage. What’s my Syrian identity? Not my tribe or sect. What aspect of my Syrian identity do I share with other Syrians? Other than our food and culture, every Syrian knows certain histories, and shares components. Every Syrian knows who Queen Zenobia is; every Syrian knows the first alphabet was discovered in Ugarit, Syria; every Syrian knows about Palmyra. These shared histories are a point of pride for everyone. They cut across class and background. Cultural heritage can and should be an important asset for post-conflict stabilization and reconciliation.

Image: Roman Theatre at Palmyra: Interior, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project. Screenshot of VR.

Image: Roman Theatre at Palmyra: Interior, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project. Screenshot from the social VR ‘Portals to the Past’, The Arc/k Project, University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Virtual Academic Laboratory project.

Amphitheaters like Palmyra have been misused for decades, even by the regime to host festivals to execute those they didn’t like. These amphitheaters can be repurposed. They can become safe spaces where every Syrian can go and share and talk about maybe their painful experiences in the war, because it doesn’t matter -it’s a neutral space. You’re not in my territory, I’m not in your territory; I’m not on your turf; you’re not on my turf. Or in a museum, where everyone standing in the museum feels some sort of affinity for the object in the museum. So with that in mind, the ultimate goal is preserving cultural heritage whether in the physical sense by doing what you can to protect the site and the monuments from further damage, or by documenting it through images, and recording those sites for posterity.

So for example, The Temple of Bel. The Temple of Bel is gone. My children will never see The Temple of Bel the way I saw it. But if we recreate the Temple of Bel as a model, hopefully not something too garish, through a 3D VR experience, then maybe they will experience it that way. It’s better than nothing. They will still connect to that place. Other than that, how will they experience it, as a picture in a book? They won’t feel the heat of the sun on their face, at sunrise at the Temple of Bel, but they might be able to come close to that. So the next best thing I think is VR. You simulate the rise of the sun as it hits the window of the structure, and it’s going to be a much more realistic experience than just watching a film.

Image: Image from 3D model of Temple of Bel, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project

Image: Image from 3D model of Temple of Bel, Perpetuity Palmyra, The Arc/k Project

ARC/K: Right, the more you can trick the senses into thinking you’re there, the better. Like you said, it will never be the same as the physical, but it can be something better than nothing. 

AL-AZM: So we preserve what we can physically and document and ensure that we have a detailed record for what isn’t. And if you decide to reconstruct from an accurate model, for whatever reason, then you are going to want that detailed record.

ARC/K: Anything else you would like to add or talk about?

AL-AZM: One of the things is to not let the experiences of conflicts like that become forgotten. One of the problems is that conflicts are horrible things. People like to forget them, not relive them. When we relive them, we call them nightmares, flashbacks. But in those flashbacks and nightmares, there are important lessons. Maybe we should be able to somehow learn from them and apply them to our lives and future, without having to have the painful experience of flashbacks as well. 

One of the lessons we have yet to learn that is very important is the role of non-state actors in this work. Many major organizations– UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICCROM–are only geared or only know how to function with other major organizations, state institutions, and state structures. For example, UNESCO knows how to work with the Department of Antiquities in Egypt or in Cairo or in Syria or Damascus or Timbuktu. But you bring a non-state actor and they have no real mechanisms in place. However, the non-state actors are on the frontlines. In the 21st century and 21st century conflicts, they are the guys on the frontlines.

In Syria, the guys that bore the brunt of the duty to protect and document cultural heritage were non-state actors in the area. Remember, in 2015, the Syrian regime controlled less than 30% of the country, so 70% of Syria was out of their control. Five out of the six UNESCO designated world heritage sites were outside the control of the regime. So in that time, the only people who were documenting were not in Damascus. Yet they got no attention, no support, no backup. And the regime itself is under sanctions. So you have a regime that’s under sanctions, a regime that’s basically openly illegitimate. How are you going to work with them? You have to find another way, you have to work with local non-state actors. We need to give them the means, as our duty to protect and document cultural heritage.

The international community has yet to develop really effective, properly functioning mechanisms to work with non-state actors. That’s a missed opportunity in my opinion. I think we should really learn from that.  For example, if you think of Mali and after the ISIS takeover. It wasn’t the state that protected those libraries. It was local curators, local people who took the stuff and hid it from ISIS so that it wouldn’t be destroyed.  It wasn’t the Ministry of Culture stepping in and removing that stuff. It was local. Even in the case in Syria, where you have functioning mechanisms. Even then, the state had no time or resources to invest in that institution. So if it weren’t for their will and dedication, irrespective of whether they work for the government or state, whether they were in opposition or regime-controlled areas, those guys are our colleagues. They were doing what they could. They didn’t get enough support either.

ARC/K: I remember when we were potentially thinking about going to Busra to document the Roman Theater there, and you said yes, I have a guy that can get us generators. Maybe they’re a little shaky on certain things, but there are people that have connections.

AL-AZM: But with official entities, it’s really hard. If you’re getting federal funding, it’s a tough call. I think we need to learn from these lessons and we need to learn from the importance of accruing and working with non-state actors and supporting them. More often than not, it’s the locals who are the driving force or factor. The decision to protect the Museum of Ma’ara was not from the international community. It was not me sitting at my office in Ohio. No. It was the locals who decided they wanted to protect it and then reached out to someone like me and said ‘help us do this’. It’s very much ground up and I think we need to understand and appreciate it.

The real heroes of our story are the people who go out, under the risk of an air strike, to get those photographs for us of a damaged building. Or the person who bravely went out and documented all of this stuff, when he could have gotten shot at by terrorists at the Turkish border. They are the real heroes of the story. I might be able to tell a nice story but I am not the hero of the story.

ARC/K: Thank you for this wonderful interview, Amr. We are grateful to continue working together towards solutions and to further developing our research of 3D and VR applications in heritage preservation and protection. By empowering cultures in crisis to protect their own identity against illicit trafficking, digital poaching, vandalism, and ideological/religious warfare, we hope to put digital tools in the hands of those that can make a real difference.

Palmyra’s Arch of Triumph, The Day After

Black lives matter. Black histories matter. Black futures matter.

Black lives matter. Black histories matter. Black futures matter.

"Justice For Regis - Not Another Black Life rally and March - May 30, 2020 - Creative Commons Photos Here Later Today - Toronto Christie Pitts Park down Bloor Street to Queens Park / Police Headquarters on College Street". Photographer: Jason Hargrove.

Image: “Justice For Regis – Not Another Black Life rally and March – May 30, 2020 – Creative Commons Photos Here Later Today – Toronto Christie Pitts Park down Bloor Street to Queens Park / Police Headquarters on College Street”. Photographer: Jason Hargrove. Date: 2020-30-05. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.


The Arc/k Project feels extremely strongly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. We are also wanting to do a lot of great soul-searching in a field that we realize is already clamoring with people very superficially treating the subject.  We began by becoming aware of the origins, and considering how pervasive, subtle in some instances, and ultimately super toxic systemic racism, white supremacy and systemic neglect can be in altering histories, thus cancelling out futures.

As we share our reflections on the 2020 global uprisings in defense of Black lives against police brutality, we begin by acknowledging its origins. The Howard University Law Library states: “In 2013, three female Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter began with a social media hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin back in 2012. The movement grew nationally in 2014 after the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Since then it has established itself as a worldwide movement, particularly after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, MN.  Most recently, Black Lives Matter has spearheaded demonstrations worldwide protesting police brutality and systematic racism that overwhelmingly affects the Black community.”

The Black Lives Matter website asserts:
“#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives. 

We are expansive. We are a collective of liberators who believe in an inclusive and spacious movement. We also believe that in order to win and bring as many people with us along the way, we must move beyond the narrow nationalism that is all too prevalent in Black communities. We must ensure we are building a movement that brings all of us to the front.

We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. Our network centers those who have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.

We are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise.

We affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.”

We affirm Black lives matter, Black histories matter, Black futures matter. In the wake of the acts of police violence against George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Jacob Blake, and the countless acts of violence against Black Americans that occur daily, we are in solidarity with those who mourn and those who protest and organize for justice and reform. We are committed to making justice a priority in our work to digitally conserve and protect humanity’s collective culture and history. As an activist archiving organization, we believe in the power of learning from our history in order to cultivate wisdom and inspiration for our future generations. Our community-driven, citizen science based approach seeks to empower communities so each person may access tools and training to preserve the stories and heritage which are meaningful to them.

Archiving is not neutral.
The Society of American Archivists Council states this well on behalf of the field of archiving:

“During this time of dramatic and traumatic historical significance, the Society of American Archivists remains committed to its core organizational value of social responsibility, including equity and safety for Black archives workers and archives of Black Lives. A truly open, inclusive, and collaborative environment for all members of the Society cannot exist without justice for those affected by anti-Black violence. We acknowledge the trauma Black archives workers face, in particular. The labor of dismantling white supremacy and structural racism in archives, and beyond, does not rest solely upon our Black membership and other people of color. White archivists, who comprise a vast majority of the field, have a responsibility to disavow racism daily in society and in our profession.”

Black Lives Matter Juneteenth protest over the Brooklyn Bridge. Photographer: Hrag Vartanian.

Image: Black Lives Matter Juneteenth protest over the Brooklyn Bridge. Photographer: Hrag Vartanian. Date: 2020-06-19. Creative Commons CC-BY-ND.

Uprisings Affect Changes in Policy and Powerholders
The New York Times accounts some of the significant changes as a result of the uprisings, which featured the participation of about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States. “In Minneapolis, the City Council pledged to dismantle its police department. In New York, lawmakers repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records secret. Cities and states across the country passed new laws banning chokeholds.” The vast majority of the thousands of Black Lives Matter protests were peaceful, with more than 93% involving no serious harm to people or damage to property, according to a report by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (Acled) project, which tracks political violence in the United States. But the US government has taken a “heavy-handed approach” to the demonstrations, with authorities using force “more often than not” when they are present, the report found. And there has been a troubling trend of violence and armed intimidation by individual actors, including dozens of car-ramming attacks targeting demonstrators across the country.  In the November 2020 U.S. Presidential election, Joe Biden was elected the 46th President of the United States. 

Black Lives Matter protest, Seattle WA. Photographer: Kelly Kline

Image: Black Lives Matter protest, Seattle WA. Photographer: Kelly Kline. Date: 2020-05-30. Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND.

Public Health Crisis
Unrest over police brutality and racist violence erupted at the height of another crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, which drastically disrupted the socio-economic environment. These inequities disproportionately impact Black Americans. According to the
Brookings Institution, COVID-19 has now become the third largest cause of death amongst the Black population. This year has been especially challenging for vulnerable populations at risk in the multiple crises of public health and public safety. The Arc/k Project responded to the global coronavirus pandemic with 3D printing PPE face shields and giving donations of PPE resources to frontline workers and to communities in need.

Protest - Black Lives Matter - London 2020. Photographer: Livvy Adjei

Image: Protest – Black Lives Matter – London 2020. Photographer: Livvy Adjei. Date: 2020-06-07. Creative Commons CC-BY-SA.

A pillar of our work is to destabilize a top-down paradigm. By democratizing the art and science of digital preservation, we shift the power from select authorities into the hands of diverse people in age, class, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion and gender.  The variety of voices unsettles the limited historical narratives, and amplifies dynamic and ever evolving histories and legacies.

Image: Photographer at a museum as part of The Arc/k Project’s community-driven initiative of Preserving Venezuelan Culture Digitally.

We must document, remember, and archive these significant times and amplify the historic contributions by Black Americans. We are proud to support a free educational Augmented Reality app Reach Across the Stars with our 3D model assets. The project is being produced in conjunction with Kimberly Arcand and her team from NASA’s Chandra Observatory and was funded as part of the Smithsonian’s Because of Her Story Initiative. The app uses AR to share the stories of female science heroes and is aimed at reaching middle school girls to promote an interest in STEM careers. We are delighted to provide our 3D model of a USA Space Suit to be integrated with the profile of Jessica Watkins, a Black American NASA astronaut, geologist, aquanaut and former international rugby player. 

We have absolute confidence that the work we have been doing in the last five years in democratizing cultural heritage archiving is on the right track but we are also constantly re-examining what we are doing, and we want to do more. In contextualizing this movement, which we hope will always be powerful, in the specifics of our field, we are committed to an ongoing discussion about how we can contribute more and affect this dialogue more. This conversation isn’t over. And we are not satisfied that we have all the answers. But we are actively asking this question, and it will definitely inform our future projects even more.

Learn more from these resources:  

African American Heritage Preservation:
Center for the Preservation of Civil Rights Sites

Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Consortium

Community History Preservation Initiatives
The Autry Museum’s Collecting Community History Initiative: Black Lives Matter Protests in the West

Center for the Study of Political Graphics
https://www.politicalgraphics.org/
Donate posters : https://www.politicalgraphics.org/donate-posters
Online Exhibition: To Protect & Serve? Five Decades of Posters Protesting Police Violence

Educational Resources
“Map the Moment” – An Introduction to Using Photogrammetry Technology to Document Protest Sites: California Preservation Foundation Webinar

Radical Archive: Preserving Protest Ephemera
Webinar featuring: Rachel Rivenc, the head of conservation at Getty Research Institute, Shannon A. Brogdon-Grantham, the photograph and paper conservator for the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute; Carol A. Wells, a founder and creative director of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics; and Tyree Boyd-Pates, the associate curator of Western history at the Autry Museum of the American West.
Radical Archive: Preserving Protest Ephemera.

Time MagazineTyree Boyd-Pates In Conversation With Geoffrey Canada: ‘America’s Future Is Predicated on Knowing the Full History

Planning for Health, Equity, Advocacy & Leadership
https://www.stateofplace.co/pheal-about

BlackPast.org
BlackPast.org

Information about anti-racism values and work:
Black Lives Matter

Showing Up For Racial Justice

Equal Justice Initiative

People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

National Museum of African American History and & Culture – Smithsonian
Talking About Race

 

Arc/k Digital Collections Help Museums Engage Audiences Online Through Times of Crisis

Arc/k Digital Collections Help Museums Engage Audiences Online Through Times of Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the need for digital access and engagement, through online content, 3D models and virtual tours functioning as a portal for education. While many museums, heritage sites and schools are closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, our community partners have continued to engage audiences online with the help of our 3D models and digital collections.

U.S. Naval Undersea Museum shared our 3D model of a MK V diving Helmet. See 3D model here

 

Kamloops Heritage Railway in Canada shared our 3D model of the 2141 Steam Locomotive. See 3D model here

With images from our 3D models, The Colonial Art Museum of Caracas at Quinta de Anauco in Venezuela created a beautiful, online educational campaign ‘Artworks of the Collection’ / ‘Obras de la Colleción’.  They shared over 100 detailed visual posts of art objects, ceramics, and paintings with their online audiences, while their museum was closed due to COVID-19.

The Colonial Art Museum of Caracas at Quinta de Anauco in Venezuela shared this statue of San José de Galipán from the 18th century.
See 3D model here.


Explore all of Arc/k’s Museum Collections
here.

Get Involved
The Arc/k Project supports museums and cultural organizations with services of high-quality digital documentation of their collections. To learn more contact us.

Announcing Our New Arc/kivist’s Corner

Announcing Our New Arc/kivist’s Corner

We are happy to announce the launch of our new resource site the Arc/kivist’s Corner

Whether you are an archivist looking to expand your digital offerings or someone new to digital archiving altogether, this will be the place for you!  We know how challenging it can be to start an archive. As with any new venture there are many important choices to be made when creating a digital archive and we hope that our experiences can foster dialog and be a resource for others in our community. 

We look forward to sharing our experiences, ideas and news about the world of archives and its relation to cultural heritage digital preservation.

Learn a wide variety of topics related to digital archives, including insights into:

  • Archival outreach and public participation in digital cultural heritage preservation
  • Applications of enhanced digital experiences in education
  • The creation of archival standards for 3D model preservation
  • Ethics and reciprocal partnerships with indigenous communities
  • Archival actions in disasters and areas of conflict

We also plan to share some special “behind the scenes” looks into the creation and evolution of our archive – from conceptual planning to implementation and beyond.

Visit the Arc/kivist’s Corner to find information on our policies, notable academic papers on digital archives, topical books, organizations that inspire us, project videos and much more.

 

Expanding Access to Arc/k Collections

Expanding Access to Arc/k Collections

We are pleased to announce that the Arc/k Project is the latest contributor to the digital archives Calisphere and the Digital Public Library of America!

Calisphere and the California Digital Library bring together a multitude of digitized collections from California based museums, libraries, archives, and all ten campuses of the University of California. They are a partner of the Digital Public Library of America, which is an all-digital library that aggregates metadata and materials from libraries, museums and institutions around the country. 

The Arc/k Project’s image collection of over three hundred 3D photogrammetry models joins Calisphere’s 1.7 million digitized cultural heritage objects for use by educators, researchers and the public. 

Calisphere and Arc/k Project

Screenshot of one of Arc/k’s collections Cultural Heritage of Syria on Calisphere. Click here for Collection.

“As a digital collection aggregate, Calisphere brings cultural heritage archives like ours together through shared common archival standards and practices” said Michael Conyers, Archivist for The Arc/k Project. “This allows Arc/k’s Collections to fit seamlessly into Calisphere’s catalog, improving academic and public access to the models and data.”

The Arc/k Project’s featured collections include Cultural Heritage of Syria – Perpetuity Palmyra, which accurately preserves the tragically destroyed cultural heritage site via VR and 3D models created exclusively from thousands of crowdsourced digital images, and Cultural Heritage of Venezuela, a joint digital preservation project in association with the non-profit organization Institutional Assets and Monuments of Venezuela.

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) helps accelerate innovative tools and ideas that empower and equip libraries to make information more accessible. 

Digital Public Library of America and Arc/k Project

Screenshot of Arc/k’s archival item in Digital Public Library of America from the Cultural Heritage of Venezuela collection. Item details: Untitled mural (1950) by Francisco Narváez. Located at the University City in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo registry by Daniel Patiño. This piece is a part of the collection “Synthesis of the Arts” at the University City of Caracas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designed by the architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. Cultural Heritage of Venezuela Archival Collection, a collaboration of the Arc/k Project and the Institutional Assets and Monuments of Venezuela. Click here to see 3D model.

Founder and Executive Director of The Arc/k Project Brian Pope shares, “Accessibility to culture is one of the founding principles of Arc/k Project. By entering into strategic associations with organizations who prioritize accessibility in a new age, we are thrilled to be a part of this new and rapidly developing paradigm for access, for that which otherwise might be hidden behind gates of privilege and exclusivity.” 

Discover the collections! Each object of Arc/k’s catalog contains an image of the 3D model, related metadata and a direct link to its catalog page viewable on The Arc/k Project Collections website

View our contributions at Calisphere here and the Digital Public Library of America here

About Calisphere
As your gateway to California’s remarkable digital collections, Calisphere provides free access to unique and historically important artifacts for research, teaching, and curious exploration. Discover over one million photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more. The collections on Calisphere have been digitized and contributed by all ten campuses of the University of California and other important libraries, archives, and museums throughout the state.
Calisphere website: https://calisphere.org/ 

About Digital Public Library of America
The Digital Public Library of America empowers people to learn, grow, and contribute to a diverse and better-functioning society by maximizing access to our shared history, culture, and knowledge. The Digital Public Library of America amplifies the value of libraries and cultural organizations as Americans’ most trusted sources of shared knowledge. We do this by collaborating with partners to accelerate innovative tools and ideas that empower and equip libraries to make information more accessible.
Digital Public Library of America website: https://dp.la/

 

 

Arc/k Project – COVID-19 Response

Arc/k Project – COVID-19 Response

On March 19, 2020, an Executive Order and Public Health Order directed all Californians to stay home except to go to an essential job or to shop for essential needs, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus global health pandemic.  

While ensuring our staff was safe by setting up work-from-home operations, Arc/k Project Founder/Executive Director Brian Pope led generous efforts to respond to the crisis. 

PPE for Frontline Workers in California 

During the medical supply shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Arc/k Project joined the effort across the country to 3D print PPE face shields for the heroes so many already owe a debt of gratitude for saving their lives, our brave health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Mass production began, and we were able to print 700 of these masks for the cause directly out of our Hollywood studio.

Arc/k Project Director of Operations Scott Purdy assembles a face shield, fabricated and printed at our L.A. headquarters.

After consulting with the head of the ICU department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, we learned how to best customize these shields for maximum protection and comfort. Nurses and doctors were wearing this gear for the duration of their extended shifts, and many had to re-use them for several days due to dangerously depleted critical supplies.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center team with Arc/k Project 3D printed PPE face shields

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center team with Arc/k Project 3D printed PPE face shields.                   

Every member of the team at Arc/k Project leapt at the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to our communities during this global health crisis and some attended our 3D printers at all hours for weeks to overcome technical hurdles and maximize face shield output—they are my heroes, too.”
–Brian Pope, CEO of The Arc/k Project

We are proud to have joined the larger community response from many LA-based institutions–including local universities and companies who donated their resources and production to this urgent cause.  As medical supplies became more available for our local communities, we discontinued our PPE face shield operation, and redirected our attention to purchasing and delivering commercial, newly available PPE toward cultural communities under direct and outsized threat from COVID-19.

Supporting Native American Communities In Need
Over the summer, our Founder donated additional PPE resources to Native American communities in need. For Indigenous American cultures and communities, the systemic neglect and under-funding prevalent in government-run medical facilities on Indian land was nothing new, but its effect on the massively outscaled impact of the pandemic on these communities was startling, heartbreaking and compels still further action. We have been able, so far, to get 2000 face masks, 1000 KN-95 masks, 1000 medical gowns, and 30 pairs of safety goggles into the hands of Navajo tribal health care centers and are gearing up for further such efforts as the pandemic worsens, decimating native communities as well as people of color disproportionately.

We have become somewhat experienced at sourcing and distributing PPE and urge anyone interested in helping us defend already-distressed Indigenous cultures to join us, either by alerting us to any known Native American communities in desperate need of PPE and/or contributing financially to our ongoing PPE efforts to reduce the impact on those most vulnerable.

Gratitude
We send our heartfelt gratitude to all the doctors, nurses, paramedics, and first responders putting themselves on the frontlines to protect human lives with no care to the political prejudices and neglect which have left our national government utterly, criminally absent at the exact moment our entire civilization needs long-lost American leadership the most.

Stay informed and stay safe : www.coronavirus.gov