This initiative uses smart phones to preserve Ukrainian artifacts

Campaign from Virtue Worldwide allows users to upload 3D captures to a free library

Published On
Apr 12, 2022

Editor's Pick

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has endangered sites of the country’s rich cultural heritage. A new initiative calls on Ukrainians to collect 3D captures of the country’s artifacts, building a virtual library of significant architecture, monuments and antiquities.

A partnership between agency Virtue Worldwide, part of Vice Media Group, the Danish UNESCO National Commission and Blue Shield Denmark, “Backup Ukraine” utilizes mobile app Polycam to 3D capture landmarks and render an interactive replica.

A how-to video explains that for smaller objects, such as a statue, the app will rapidly take photos as the user circles it and then can move closer to capture more subtle details. For larger pieces of architecture, iPhone’s LIDAR sensor, a 3D mapping technology in newer models, is capable of mapping out entire physical locations.

“War claims more than lives. It can cost a country irreversible damage to its national spirit,” Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, chair of The Danish UNESCO National Commission, said in a statement. “By destroying the symbols of its values, pride, and history—the very things its identity is built upon. 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.”

“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,” Søren la Cour Jensen, Chair of Blue Shield Denmark, said in a statement. “Total loss is our greatest fear, and ‘Backup Ukraine’ provides a new and important tool that can prevent that,”

Ukraine is home to seven of UNESCO’s designated World Heritage Sites, areas under legal protections to be preserved for future generations, and countless other cultural artifacts unable to be moved out of harm’s way. The campaign video warns that participants shouldn’t risk their safety to scan items in areas of active conflict and also shouldn’t capture the locations of military forces or equipment.

After uploading a cultural item onto Polycam, it will be documented in a cloud-based open library for all to view. More information on how to participate can be found on the campaign’s website.

“Right now we are witnessing an incredible human response to the war in Ukraine, with people across the globe contributing in whatever ways they can, from going to fight for Ukraine to making donations to NGOs and much more,” Morten Grubak, global executive creative director of innovation at Virtue, said in a statement. “As creatives, we asked ourselves how we could help, and saw the news about people working to save Ukraine’s art. We are artists at heart and fundamentally believe in the importance it plays in our lives. This idea came to mind almost instantly and within days we were able to connect with Polycam and put this product in place. We sincerely hope it helps.”

The current library is a varied snapshot of the war, holding recreations of cultural artifacts as intended, but also housing scans of a destroyed Russian tank, the rooms of one user’s apartment and a stack of Jenga blocks.


Apr 12, 2022
Client :
The Danish UNESCO National Commission
Client :
Blue Shield Denmark
Client :
Agency :
Virtue Worldwide
Chairman of the National Commission :
Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen
Representative :
Vasyl Rozhko
Chairman of ICOM Denmark & Blue Shield Denmark :
Søren la Cour Jensen
Co-Founder :
Elliot Spelman
Co-Founder :
Chris Heinrich
Communications Manager :
Elizabeth Bowden
Chief Creative Officer Vice Media Group & Co President Virtue :
Chris Garbutt
Global Executive Creative Director :
Morten Grubak
Group Creative Director :
Iain Thomas
Creative Director :
Tao Thomsen
Creative Director :
Martin Magner
Creative Director :
Martin Nørgaard Furze
Senior Art Director :
Christine Smith
Digital Art Director :
Francois Pablo Andrivet
Senior Communications Manager Virtue, EMEA/International :
Florence Gartland
Head of Production, Europe at VIRTUE Worldwide :
Heidi Baltzer Ginsborg
Executive Producer :
Nicola Applegate
Senior Editor :
Max Siegal

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