CyArk, short for Cyber Archive, is scheduled to digitally scan 500 of the world's oldest and most notable monuments over the next 5 years for posterity. The project uses laser scanners to capture full-size digital replicas of structures like the Tower of London, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Mount Rushmore and others as determined by site submissions on the CyArk website. The project was founded by millionaire Ben Kacyra.
To capture 3D images of the sites, Kacyra uses a technology similar to the 3D laser scanning technology he invented for use in commercial architecture and construction surveying. Each scan is about 10 TB of data, and all of the digital models can be viewed and navigated on the CyArk website. Kacyra's reason for founding CyArk is to preserve priceless monuments even if they get destroyed by human or natural disasters.
At an event in London last week, Kacyra opened the doors to governments and others who want to submit a heritage site to be included as one of the 500. These parties can sponsor and fund any approved site in the world. Interestingly, Scotland paid for the US's Mount Rushmore digitization. "If we want to work with other countries we have to understand them and to do that we have to understand their heritage; this is a very simple way of doing this," said Scottish Member of Parliament Fiona Hyso.
Anyone concerned that digital versions will reduce physical site visitations can probably rest easy. "It doesn't displace visits, it actually encourages more visits and that's good for tourism; it's good for the economy," said Hyso. That argument strikes us as reminiscent of the argument that digital music downloads actually increase concert attendance.