New technologies—and initiatives like "Scan the World"—are helping us to preserve and access cultureby Martin Roth / June 14, 2016 / Leave a comment
A year ago, Islamic State took control of the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra, in Syria. The world watched as deeply upsetting scenes of death and devastation took place, including the execution of Khaled al-Asaad, the city’s head of antiquities for 40 years. He was killed after refusing to reveal the whereabouts of hidden relics that the extremists sought to destroy.
These kind of attacks are not new or isolated phenomena. In early 2015, IS demolished parts of the 2,700-year-old Nineveh wall in Mosul, and it has destroyed other artefacts in museums, churches and mosques across Iraq and Syria. The Taliban have committed similar acts in Afghanistan, most famously the dynamiting of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001.
Sadly, headline-grabbing actions by fanatics are not the only threats to our cultural heritage. UNESCO deems 48 of its World Heritage Sites to be at risk, and in the 20-year history of the World Monuments Fund, nearly 800 sites have been on its watchlist as endangered. Conflict, neglect, vandalism, urbanization, natural disasters and mass tourism are all contributing to irreparable damage to art, architecture and heritage around the globe.