New non-profit uses
cutting-edge photogrammetry to create 3D replicas of endangered landmarks…while
developing a model for the stewards of cultural heritage to monetize their
digital assets by making them available to film and TV productions.

LOS ANGELES—The Arc/k Project, a new nonprofit
focused on digital preservation, has developed a unique plan for creating
3-dimensional records of the world’s most endangered cultural assets while
providing Hollywood filmmakers with a new and better way to incorporate exotic
locations and artifacts into their productions.
Employing the latest
photogrammetric imaging technology, the Arc/k Project is constructing precise
3D models of landmarks and historically valuable objects, many of which are
under imminent threat from terrorist activity, global warming, environmental
degradation and other factors. Its team of artists and technicians has already
produced detailed models of Palmyra’s theater and Temple of Baalshamin, which
were heavily damaged by ISIS last year. They are currently modeling Iceland’s Þingvellir, site of Europe’s first parliament, under
threat from earthquakes and erosion.
“Our mission is to save endangered cultural assets,” says
Brian Pope, the organization’s founder. “We
want to preserve the ephemera of our world—glaciers that are retreating, cities
that are changing, statues that are decaying—for future generations in a way
never before possible.”

Ultimately, the Arc/k Project seeks to establish an archive
of thousands of digital models of fragile sites and artifacts. It plans to make
its archive available to art historians, scientists, researchers and the
general public, but it also believes that its models will prove a valuable
resource to Hollywood—in the form of intricately-detailed digital backdrops for
film and television productions.
“We want to satisfy Hollywood’s need for exotic locations,
while providing a new revenue stream, through licensing fees, for organizations
that manage these sites,” says Pope. “At the same time, we are accomplishing
our goal to preserve culturally-significant assets. It’s a triple win!”
Pope notes that The Arc/k Project is currently working with
a Canadian heritage organization to create a 3D model of a 19th
century steam locomotive. The train is in high demand as a prop for film
productions, but is extremely costly to operate and maintain. “The 3D model
will allow the group to make its asset available to many more productions and
increase revenue in a way that’s simpler and less invasive,” Pope says.
The Arc/k Project is well integrated with the entertainment
industry. Pope is also the founder of Cognition, a Los Angeles visual effects
and post-production facility serving film studios and independent producers. The
Arc/k Project pursues its photogrammetry work by tapping into Cognition’s
high-end imaging technology and staff of digital artists.
The organization’s Hollywood connection gives it an
advantage over other groups involved in digital preservation, mostly
universities and cultural institutions, according to Pope. “Funding is a big
issue in the academic world,” he notes. “Many schools have to hustle for funds
to support classes in photogrammetry. Trying to operate and manage a
large-scale operation in a faraway and perhaps troubled spot is a real
challenge for them. We have technical resources that they lack and a business
model to make this very important work economically feasible.”
The Arc/k Project hopes to further lower the cost of digital
preservation through the use of crowd-sourcing. It is reaching out to
universities, cultural institutions and the public to share archival material
that can be used in digital reconstruction.
Pope insists that almost anyone can take part in building
the cultural database. “Most people today have a smartphone in their pocket
that can be used to record culturally significant objects,” he says. “Anyone
who gets out into the world can be involved in archiving. They can contribute
to our collective memory of who we are and what we are becoming.”
About The Arc/k Project
The Arc/k Project has as its mission the digital conservation and protection
of humanity’s collective culture and history to ensure the preservation of thousands of
years of artistic brilliance and creativity–a legacy for current and future
generations. We are working to generate synergies and provide
support for the currently separate and solitary efforts of like-minded
individuals and activists, museums, and organizations who are already forging a
unified global response to the emerging crisis.
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