Cultural Heritage Spotlight: Reconstructing Destruction in Palmyra with Arc/k

Back to overview

Our Cultural institutions Page highlights our ongoing support of museums and cultural institutions with free accounts and access to tools. In Cultural Heritage Spotlight, we’ll explore museums and cultural institutions who are using 3D technology to bring new life to their collections. Today’s blog post features The Arc/k Project, an amazing nonprofit team that digitally rebuilds destructed cultural heritage sites thanks to crowdsourced photographs and photogrammetry.

The process of accurately rebuilding cultural heritage sites which have been completely decimated is now a reality because of current technology, image sharing, and the vision and desire to do so. The Arc/k Project was founded by the impassioned Brian Pope for the very reason that cultural sites and antiquities are being destroyed around the world, lost to humanity and all future generations. Brian knew that these endangered sites and cultural objects must be captured digitally to preserve them for the present and future generations to learn from and admire.

An image showing a point-cloud of the Roman Theater. The blue rectangles are the camera locations important in generating a photogrammetry solve.

An image showing a point-cloud of the Roman Theater. The blue rectangles are the camera locations important in generating a photogrammetry solve.

Through the process of collecting crowdsourced creative commons images online and images directly donated to The Arc/k Project by scholars from their existing historical archives, and by individual photographers, a team of photogrammetry specialists and artists have been able to restore, through photogrammetry, The Arch of Triumph, The Temple of Bel, and the interior of the Roman Theater at Palmyra in Syria.

Near final photogrammetry solve for The Temple of Bel.

The process of crowdsourced photogrammetry has very different requirements than the process that goes into a good solve for a traditional approach in photogrammetry. A myriad of problems occur with collected images, like images with different resolutions, images taken at different times of day, and images from different years which all contribute to a very challenging photogrammetry solve. Quite often only half of the images would solve in any given project. We often found we could get a good solve of the part of a certain structure, but nothing would solve together all in one. Taking initial solves and progressively refining them with additional solves as more photographs and sources came in culminated into a detailed final result. Then the environments such as the 360 sky dome were generated by visual referencing images to be as accurate as possible to the Palmyra site.

Roman Theater Solve

All of these were generated to be experienced in VR as well. We want the viewer to get a real sense of what it was like to be there.  There are many details carved in the Arch of Triumph that are truly beautiful to experience in VR. Also the sheer scale of the structures can be experienced in VR.

If you have digital photo collections of important and/or endangered archaeological sites, works or art, ancient cities or other treasures of the ancient world (published on sites like Instagram, Picasa, Flickr, etc) or even stored on hard drives take a closer look and consider whether they may be of help in digital archiving as 3D models (thus protecting against complete loss in a worst-case scenario).

Donate images through:

The Arc/k Project works to build what we hope is a consistent and logical set of guidelines and practices for the intense cleanup and refinement of the raw photogrammetric solves. Our goal is always to retain the scientific value of these solves, not just their aesthetics.

Thanks for sharing, Arc/k Team!

Arc/k has launched Perpetual | Palmyra as a means of sharing and inspiring cultural heritage by bringing people together in a completely novel way. Please check out for the latest news and information as we endeavor to bring Palmyra to the world.

If you are part of a cultural institution, get in touch with us at to set up your free business account.

About the author

Raphaël Marchou

Cultural Heritage Enthusiast !

No Comments

    Related articles