Virtual Reconstruction Of Ancient Temple Destroyed By ISIS Is Another Reason To Put Your Holiday Photos Into The Public Domain

from the fighting-terrorism-by-sharing dept

The Syrian civil war has led to great human suffering, with hundreds of thousands killed, and millions displaced. Another victim has been the region’s rich archaeological heritage. Many of the most important sites have been seriously and intentionally damaged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). For example, the Temple of Bel, regarded as among the best preserved at the ancient city of Palmyra, was almost completely razed to the ground. In the past, more than 150,000 tourists visited the site each year. Like most tourists, many of them took photos of the Temple of Bel. The UC San Diego Library’s Digital Media Lab had the idea of taking some of those photos, with their many different viewpoints, and to combine them using AI techniques into a detailed 3D reconstruction of the temple:

The digital photographs used to create the virtual rendering of the Temple of Bel were sourced from open access repositories such as the #NEWPALMYRA project, the Roman Society, Oxford University and many individual tourists, then populated into Pointcloud, which allows users to interactively explore the once massive temple compound. Additionally, artificial intelligence applications were used to isolate the temple’s important features from other elements that may have appeared in the images, such as tourists, weather conditions and foliage.

The New Palmyra site asks members of the public to upload their holiday photos of ancient Palmyra. The photos are sorted according to the monument: for example, the Temple of Bel collection currently has just over a 1000 images taken before the temple’s destruction. Combining these with other images in academic and research institutions has allowed a detailed point cloud representation of the temple to be created. The model can be tilted, rotated and zoomed from within a browser. Using AI to put together images is hardly cutting-edge these days. In many ways, the key idea is the following note on the New Palmyra home page:

Unless otherwise specified, by uploading your photos or models to #NEWPALMYRA, they will be publicly available under a CC0 license.

Putting the images into the public domain (CC0) is necessary to make the combination of them easy without having to worry about attribution or, even more impossibly, licensing them individually. As the newly-resurrected Temple of Bel shows, once we ignore the copyright industry’s obsession with people “owning” the things they create, and simply give them to the world for anyone to enjoy and build on, we all gain.

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Comments on “Virtual Reconstruction Of Ancient Temple Destroyed By ISIS Is Another Reason To Put Your Holiday Photos Into The Public Domain”

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11 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Internet Archive

Presuming that the Internet Archive survives it’s assault by the pond scum sucking bottom dwelling publishers, might this be a good project to suggest to the IA.

A link to a good set of instructions on how to prepare photos would be nice. Photo’s from digital cameras are easy and conveniently availble. Actually as many digital cameras have several modes of operation, links to instructions on future use and mode selection may be beneficial.

However, there is an immense stock of "analog/emulsion" photos in the hands of the public. Links to instructions on how to scan them to digital format and where to send them would be helpful.

If the Internet Archive doesn’t survive, would the U. S. Library of Congress be a viable option? Actually, the Library of Congress raises an interesting question. Does any other nation have a similar institution? If so, might the load of such a project be shared among these institutions? Each institution can maintain a library of image for their area/state/nation, with one or two other institutions keeping a backup copy. This way the load is shared and backups are ensured in case of accidents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Internet Archive

As far as I know, the British Library and other national libraries don’t tend to put the bulk of their stuff online for free anonymous access. It’s relevant to this story, because without such access it’s going to be difficult to do large-scale projects (like reconstructing temples) that involve automated transformation of thousands of items.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Internet Archive

Cool, thanks. However: "The Library subscribes to a variety of database and other electronic resources. Some are freely available but most can only be accessed in our Reading Rooms." At least two of the collections on that page have access restrictions.

I’ve seen similar things at other national libraries: old maps, manuscripts, etc. being online—especially those related to the nation—but still significantly hampered by copyright in relation to anything from the last century. Glyn’s right that we need more modern stuff in the public domain.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Internet Archive

Flickr is fine though, as long as you … can afford the pro subscription to make sure it can last.

Don’t assume the subscription will make it last. Flickr has changed ownership several times, for much of its history being owned by the notoriously data-destructive Yahoo. Archive Team reports that Yahoo had planned to kill Flickr, and that it’s losing money under its current ownership.

Archive.org, at least, has permanent access as their mission, and will take and share freely-licensed material at no cost. Their command-line tool makes bulk export easier. Wherever you store/share it, hard drives are cheap—always keep a copy.

Federico (profile) says:

Photo dataset

Do I understand correctly that the photos used for the project are all stored in the corresponding Flickr album?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/newpalmyra/

I can’t see if any of them came from Wikimedia Commons. (They don’t have to be attributed if they’re in the public domain or CC-0.) I would be curious, because there were a few Wikimedia efforts to collect photos of Palmyra specifically for such efforts (including Bassel Khartabil’s "New Palmyra" project).
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Connected_Open_Heritage/Physical_Photo_Exhibition#Syria:_Site_of_Palmyra

Anonymous Coward says:

Yep sounds like them still.

Ottoman/Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, hungary, libya, tunisia, persia, possibly china/india

Somehow iraq gave them a shit ton of oil to commit genocide with before it was used to also genocide Iraq.

That’s them still committing genocide but maybe 4 or 5 parties are innocent. They are definitely listed there though.

Bartonufx (user link) says:

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