See how climate change is endangering landmarks around the world
From fires in Australia and California to hurricanes in the Caribbean, the effects of climate change on our immediate environment are becoming ever more apparent. Less visible are the threats presented to landmark sites around the world – places like Edinburgh’s cliff-side castle, the monuments of Rapa Nui (Easter Island), and the ancient adobe city of Chan Chan, in Peru – that are susceptible to destruction from increasing torrential rains, rising seas, ocean acidification, and more.
In an effort to draw attention to the plight of these endangered landmarks, Google Arts & Culture has debuted a new online collection called Heritage on the Edge, a partnership with CyArk, a non-profit working to create a 3D digital archive of endangered wonders of the world, and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a global non-government organisation dedicated to conserving sites of architectural and archaeological significance.
With the help of local experts, CyArk went on data-collection expeditions to document each site, using photogrammetry, 3D scanning, drone video capture, and interviews to assess the locations and offer conservation support. So far, the team has completed fieldwork at five landmarks – Rapa Nui, Edinburgh, Chan Chan, Kilwa Kisiwani, on the Swahili Coast of Tanzania, and the Mosque City of Bagerhat, in Bangladesh – and created more than 50 online exhibits, six 360-degree street-view tours, 25 3D models, and two augmented-reality Pocket Gallery models, one of the Nine Dome Mosque in Bangladesh and the other of Gereza Fort in Tanzania.
“Above all, the project is a call to action,” ICOMOS president Dr Toshiyuki Kono writes in a blog post introducing the collection. “The effects of climate change on our cultural heritage mirror wider impacts on our planet, and require a strong and meaningful response. While actions at individual sites can prevent loss locally, the only sustainable solution is systemic change and the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Google’s source data is accessible to restorers, researchers, educators, and preservationists, and the tech company provided local training for on-site heritage managers to aid in their work.
“Heritage on the Edge collects stories of loss, but also of hope and resilience,” Kono writes. “They remind us that all our cultural heritage, including these iconic World Heritage Sites, are more than just tourist destinations. They are places of great national, spiritual and cultural significance.”