Curious Travellers is a data-mining and crowd sourced infrastructure to help with digital documentation of archaeological sites, monuments and heritage at risk. It provides a priority response to sites that have been destroyed, or are under immediate threat from neglect, cultural vandalism, conflict and natural disasters around the world. The project was funded alongside the AHRC Digital Transformations Theme Large Grant ‘Fragmented Heritage’. It developed the infrastructure and workflows for receiving public-donated photographs and videos and the mechanism for web-scraping of photographs and related information drawn from travel blogs, the wider web and social media. Such imagery can be combined to recreate 3D models of monuments and ancient sites and to scale and place them in context using relevant site and landscape data.
Clear uses of these outputs have emerged, including:
1) support to conservation architects and reconstruction efforts, as within the Kathmandu Valley, following the 2015 earthquake;
2) the value of connecting heritage with displaced communities, as with our virtual reconstruction of monuments from Syria used within the BReaTHe project; and
3) by involving the public in conservation monitoring, as at Fountains Abbey World Heritage Site.
The project takes its name from a quote by Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford, in a letter to Sir Horace Mann (1774)… ‘At last some curious traveller from Lima will visit England, and give a description of the ruins of St Paul’s, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra’. The importance of cultural heritage is summed up in a simple message at the entrance to the National Museum of Afghanistan…‘A nation stays alive when its culture stays alive’. Early developments in the Curious Travellers workflow were published in Current World Archaeology volume 82, viewable online and you can view and interact with the models mentioned in the article here.
Link to Sketchfab