Backup Ukraine is a project that aims to give ordinary people the power to help preserve Ukraine’s cultural heritage. Russia’s military has killed thousands and leveled city blocks. It’s more than just people that are lost in the devastation—the statues, buildings, and art that form the shared culture of the Ukrainian people are also being destroyed.
Backup Ukraine is a partnership between VICE Media Group’s Virtue, the Blue Shield Denmark and the Danish UNESCO National Commission. It asks volunteers to use an app to scan objects in Ukraine. The scans are then turned into a 3D model and uploaded into a cloud where they can be backed up far away from Russia’s bombs.
“War claims more than lives. It can cost a country irreversible damage to its national spirit. By destroying the symbols of its values, pride, and history—the very things its identity is built upon,” Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, Chair of The Danish UNESCO National Commission, said in a statement about the project. “This is why the protection of cultural heritage is crucial for any conflict. And during an ongoing war, traditional methods of cultural preservation are under pressure. So innovative technologies are a very welcome assistance. This is why The Danish UNESCO National Commission strongly supports Backup Ukraine. It is our hope that it will help preserve Ukraine's cultural heritage for posterity during this time of unbearable loss.”
The uploads have already begun and 3D scans of cultural objects from Ukraine are already available online. There are scans of sculptures, bedrooms, and sleeping dogs. Each scan is a tiny act of resistance, a moment in time preserved in digital amber and safe from Russian aggression.
The destruction of cultural artifacts during war is a major problem. Beyond adding to the misery and sense of loss, this destruction is damaging to our global cultural history. It’s also a tool of war. As the Islamic State spread throughout the Middle East, it prioritized the destruction of ancient artifacts. During World War II, the Nazis stole or destroyed as much art as they could. It was such a problem that the allies started a special unit of scholars and soldiers to preserve cultural artifacts.
Modern wars call for modern methods of preservation, and Backup Ukraine is a chance for anyone on the ground to save a little piece of their culture.
“Destroying a country's cultural heritage is the fastest way to undermine its national identity,” Søren la Cour Jensen, Chair of Blue Shield Denmark, said in a press release. “As we have learned after World War II and many later conflicts, saving a country’s cultural heritage is the best path to reconstruction and revival of society. Total loss is our greatest fear, and Backup Ukraine provides a new and important tool that can prevent that.”