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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday July 15, 2019

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

Importance of digitising cultural heritage highlighted in 'Heritage at Risk' exhibition

Three months since the fire that engulfed Notre-Dame de Paris, Europeana Collections launches a new online exhibition on Heritage at Risk

main image
Notre-Dame on fire
Godefroy Troude
15 April 2019
Wikimedia Commons

Available in seven languages, Heritage at Risk uses unique digital content to explore the threats - natural and man-made - facing heritage sites from ancient times until today. And it highlights the role that digital technology can play in helping the cultural heritage sector meet restoration challenges in the 21st century - including Notre-Dame. 

From the Pantheon in Greece to the Stari Most in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and from fire and flood, to war and the human footprint, the exhibition traces the troubled history of some of Europe’s most iconic heritage sites. Its unique content also demonstrates that the cultural heritage sector already holds some of the answers to the challenge of preserving and restoring endangered sites.

Current UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list
Current UNESCO World Heritage in Danger list

The importance of digital technology

Digitisation of cultural heritage can be a crucial tool in today’s efforts towards the conservation, renovation, study and promotion of European cultural resources. At the European Union level, new actions are being taken in this area: just a few days before the Notre-Dame fire, the European Commission’s Declaration of cooperation on heritage digitisation saw 25 European countries commit to take action in several areas, including a pan-European initiative for 3D digitisation of cultural heritage artefacts, monuments and sites.

Commenting at the launch of the exhibition, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Mariya Gabriel re-states her support for the sector in this area:
‘The fire of Notre-Dame highlighted once more the need to preserve, record and protect our European cultural heritage. 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.’

Europeana Foundation Executive Director, Harry Verwayen, says:

‘Our museums, archives and libraries contain invaluable, often unique, records of heritage sites throughout their history - architectural drawings, photographs, paintings and written descriptions. 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.’

The exhibition’s final chapter focuses on Notre-Dame de Paris, and highlights how digital technology is a key part of the conversation around its latest restoration - with technologies such as 3D scanning and modelling, virtual and augmented reality, promising new ways to help the sector in preserving and showcasing cultural heritage.

Explore and get involved!

Please explore and enjoy this important exhibition, then help us promote it by sharing it with your networks. Follow @europeanaeu on Twitter and Facebook for ways to participate and interact on the Heritage at Risk theme throughout the summer!