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Scotland’s digital conservation ambition is leading the world

21 October 2013

Scotland has the skills and expertise to teach other countries the value of using cutting edge digital documentation technologies to help conserve the world’s priceless historic environment.

This was the message delivered by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in her keynote speech at the launch of the CyArk 500 Challenge in London today (21 October). The challenge is a global call-to-action to digitally record 500 cultural heritage sites across the world within the next five years.

The Cabinet Secretary spoke about the ground-breaking Scottish Ten project - a five-year collaboration between specialists in heritage digital documentation at Historic Scotland, experts in 3D visualisation at The Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio and not-for-profit digital heritage organisation CyArk.

The Scottish Ten is digitally documenting Scotland’s five UNESCO-inscribed World Heritage Sites (WHS) and five international heritage sites to foster global collaboration and build lasting partnerships based on cultural connections.

The Scottish Ten was established after the Scottish Government learned of CyArk’s mission to create a database of digital information on globally significant heritage sites. The government realised working with the not-for-profit organisation to capture Scotland’s WHSs and contribute to the wider historic environment across the world would lead to an innovative and ground-breaking partnership.

In supporting the CyArk 500, Ms Hyslop told the invited audience of representatives from over 30 countries, that Scotland, through the Scottish Ten, has developed a model others can learn from when it comes to harnessing 3D techniques, including laser scanning, to digitally record their historic environment.

She said that the CyArk 500 mission reflected something that is well developed in Scotland through the Scottish Ten. 3D data from the project is already being used to conserve, manage, promote and interpret heritage assets for current and future generations.

As part of the launch Ms Hyslop also placed all the Scottish Ten data collected so far in a specially designed Ark created by Historic Scotland’s traditional skills apprentices for the CyArk 500 Challenge. Other countries are being urged to use the Ark as a secure store for their own scanned data in the future.

The Scottish Ten has to date recorded four of Scotland’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites; New Lanark, St Kilda, The Antonine Wall and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney, with work on the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh in progress. It has also scanned Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, USA, China’s Eastern Qing Tombs, Rani ki Vav (Queens Stepwell) in Gujarat, India and Sydney Opera House, Australia. The fifth international site is still to be announced.

Cabinet Secretary Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: “The CyArk 500 Challenge is an initiative which will help conserve and record some of the world’s most precious heritage assets. I am delighted to help launch it and add Scotland’s voice to the global call-to-action.

“In Scotland we are already taking this very seriously. The Scottish Ten, and its partners, is an exemplar of what can be achieved through a focussed programme of digital documentation to record some of our iconic heritage sites. The skills and expertise we have developed through the Scottish Ten is something others can learn from as a way to conserve, promote and interpret their historic environments for generations to come.”

Ben Kacyra, co-founder of CyArk along with his wife Barbara, added: “Our mission is to create a 3D-digital library of the world’s most important heritage sites. While there isn’t enough time or money to save all these sites physically, we have the technology to digitally preserve them. By doing so, we will ensure that these treasures are available for appreciation and study for years to come. It’s not an option; it’s our responsibility. Otherwise, we will lose our shared history and an important piece of our cultural identity.”

Professor Tom Inns, Director of the Glasgow School of Art added:

“The Digital Design Studio at The Glasgow School of Art is in the vanguard of research and practice in 3D visualisation. We are delighted to be able to bring this expertise to the Scottish Ten, working in partnership with Historic Scotland and CyArk on an initiative which sets a blueprint for the digital recording of historical sites of importance.”

For further information on the CyArk 500 Challenge go to:

Notes for editors:

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

  • The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is internationally recognised as one of  Europe's foremost higher education institutions for creative education and research in fine art, design and architecture. The Digital Design Studio (DDS) is a world leading research and postgraduate centre of the GSA specialising in 3D digital visualisation and interaction technologies,. It combines academic, research and commercial activities. The experts at the Digital Design Studio are currently creating the 3D scans for the widely admired Scottish Ten as a partner in the CDDV. Other areas of DDS research include ground-breaking medical visualization, Marine Visualization and Auralisation and sound.

  • CyArk is a non-profit entity whose mission is to digitally preserve cultural heritage sites through collecting, archiving and providing open access to data created by laser scanning, digital modelling, and other state-of-the-art technologies. For more information visit

  • Skills and expertise learned by the Scottish Ten team is being utilised in other projects such as the creation of an interactive Battle of Bannockburn recreation and digital documentation of Historic Scotland’s 345 sites

  • 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland, inspiring our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty, landscapes and biodiversity as Scotland prepares to welcome the world in 2014 and beyond. Find out more about Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty at

  • For further information on the work of the Digital Design Studio at The Glasgow School of Art contact: Lesley Booth, Mobile: 07799 414 474 or email

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For further information

John MacNeil
Media Relations Manager
Communications and Media
0131 668 8714 or 07854 366 827