The ‘Backup Ukraine’ project is a digital rescuer of Ukraine’ culture. The bombings in Ukraine are relentless. As well as the countless deaths and unspeakable suffering, Ukraine’s architecture and cultural heritage is being destroyed. While Ukrainian citizens are fighting for their lives and country, groups and individuals among them are working to physically save Ukraine’s architecture and cultural heritage. Vast 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, and some are immovable, leaving them vulnerable to destruction.
The challenges in saving artefacts during an active war are many, and rarely a priority as infrastructure and resources are rightfully dedicated to more pressing priorities. But in the digital era, mobile 3D scanning technology available through Polycam offers a way to save full renderings of any physical object.
‘Backup Ukraine’ is an initiative inviting civilians to digitally preserve their nation. The Danish UNESCO National Commission, Blue Shield Denmark and Polycam, a prosumer app that allows anyone with a newer iPhone or iPad to completely capture objects or even rooms in 3D, are partnering to repurpose the core Polycam product and distribute it 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 project has been was conceived, initiated and is being co-ordinated by the research and innovation arm within Virtue, the agency powered by VICE.
Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, chair of The Danish UNESCO National Commission, stated, “War claims more than lives. It can cost a country irreversible damage to its national spirit. 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.”
Søren la Cour Jensen, Chair of Blue Shield Denmark, added, “Destroying a country’s cultural heritage is the fastest way to undermine its national identity. 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.”
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 Polycam platform will be available to aid in reconstruction.
Elliot Spelman, Co-Founder at Polycam, commented, “We have watched, along with the rest of the world, as Ukraine has suffered such needless destruction. As Ukraine’s cities and neighbourhoods 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 Executive Creative Director, 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.”
This project has been awarded at the following major festivals:
– Cannes Lions 2022: Digital Craft Grand Prix.
Clients: UNESCO and Blue Shield Denmark. Agency: Virtue Worldwide. App: Polycam.