A Smartphone App to Help Experts Restore Nepal's Cultural Heritage

Excavators in Nepal will have access to a smartphone app to allow them to share images and documentation of salvaged artifacts. 

The horrendous earthquake which struck Nepal a week ago has claimed the lives of over 6,000 people and caused unquantifiable damage to many of the nation's most cherished cultural locations. The rebuild will be long and arduous, though a tech-driven element could make things a whole lot easier. Annette Ekin of Al Jazeera explains:

"Many of the monuments and temples in Kathmandu Valley, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, for seven distinct locations, were destroyed in the earthquake.

Cultural experts and citizens like the locals unearthing carvings in Bhaktapur's Durbar Square are now trying to save the nation's cultural heritage. Temples in the Durbar Square of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur were reduced to debris and rubble during the powerful shaking. Parts of Changu Narayan, a majestic ancient hilltop Hindu complex, lie in isolated ruins."

These temples date back hundreds of years (some sites go back to ancient times) and are treated as integral parts of city dwellers' social lives: city squares, meeting points, focal points during celebrations. Their reconstruction and rehabilitation will be a top priority once damages are fully assessed.

The assessment itself will be tech-driven, according to Ekin, as experts work to develop a smartphone app to allow excavators to swiftly share photos and documentation of salvaged artifacts. A major training program will begin soon so that local architects and archaeologists are equipped with the knowledge necessary to evaluate damage. We'll soon see firsthand how much of an effect advanced data management has on these efforts.

Ekin's piece delves deeper into the challenges faced by those tasked with restoring the country's cultural artifacts. I recommend giving it a read to learn more about the specifics — there's a lot of fascinating stuff about Nepal's architectural heritage. My immediate takeaway here, though, is that a strategic restoration plan is being developed and important technology is being included. A solid database and strong logistics will be necessary to rescue Nepal's shattered social heritage. Hopefully the restoration can serve as a thin silver lining for this tragic event.

Read more at Al Jazeera.

For some perspective on what Nepal must now do to recover from disaster, here's a video from five years ago featuring Haiti scholar Laurent Dubois on what that country needed to focus on in the wake of its own devastating earthquake:

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