cultural heritage

European Union’s Heritage at Risk highlights role of digital technology in restoration

Article: David Styles | Image: The Eruption of Vesuvius, 1794, Austrian National Library, Public Domain Mark

After what it describes as the “recent devastating events at Notre-Dame, the National Museum of Brazil and across Syria,” the European Union’s digital platform for cultural heritage has launched an online exhibition to explore threats to cultural heritage across the world.

Marking three months since the blaze which engulfed Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, Europeana, the European Union’s digital platform for cultural heritage, has launched an online exhibition to encourage those working in the cultural sector and the public alike to engage with the issues facing some of the world’s most prized heritage sites.

The Heritage at Risk exhibition uses what Europeana describes as “unique digital content” to explore the threats, whether natural or man-made, facing ancient heritage sites and to promote the role that digital technology can play in meeting the subsequent restoration challenges.

Europe’s cultural heritage hub

Europeana is a non-profit platform for digital cultural heritage, established by the EU with a mission statement to “transform the world with culture”.

The Europeana Collections offers users a digital library, museum, gallery and archive – all available online. The resource features artefacts in fields including archaeology, art, fashion, manuscripts and natural history.

This vast store of cultural heritage materials from across Europe is open access, enabling anyone to find, use and share information for a variety of professional or research endeavours.

“Our museums, archives and libraries contain invaluable, often unique, records of heritage sites throughout their history – architectural drawings, photographs, paintings and written descriptions,” Harry Verwayen, Executive Director of Europeana, remarked.

“Cultural heritage organisations are joining forces and adopting new technologies to preserve and share information about our heritage. By digitising their valuable collections and making the data available to experts, they help to safeguard our heritage sites. In the face of today’s complex challenges, the task seems more urgent than ever,” he concluded.

From the Europeana Collections: Venice, 1950-1960 Paolo Monti Fondazione Biblioteca Europea di Informazione e Cultura (BEIC), CC BY-SA

The online exhibition’s final focus is Notre-Dame, and examines how digital technology can play a key role in its latest restoration. Technologies such as 3D scanning and modelling, and virtual and augmented reality are cited as potential methods for the sector to better preserve and showcase cultural heritage.

European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel, described the Notre-Dame fire as having “highlighted once more the need to preserve, record and protect our European cultural heritage.”

Gabriel added: “Reactions all over Europe show how important it is for our citizens and society. More than ever, we are making progress in harnessing the power of digital for our cultural heritage, but we must keep working together to support the sector in this endeavour.”

Heritage at Risk is available to access in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish and Romanian.