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Preservation Project Uses 3D Printers to Fight ISIS’s Destruction of Heritage Sites

#NewPalmyra, an online platform and data repository launched in October, is using unconventional means to fight against the architectural damage done by ISIS in the Syrian city of Palmyra: The group is collecting and publicly sharing data about the ancient city and its destroyed monuments.

On January 18, the virtual archaeologists released the digitally recreated cultural heritage monument, the Arch of Triumph, a Roman arch erected in celebration of a military victory over the Persians, which was destroyed by ISIS this fall.

“The Arch of Triumph is a symbol of the indestructible cultural spirit of Syria,” #NewPalmyra interim director Barry Threw said. “The free sharing of this symbol ensures that the memory embodied in it can never truly be destroyed.”

The #NewPalmyra community plans to have 25,000 active printers in 160 countries working in support of its project to preserve Syrians’ rich history by 3D-printing versions of the arch. The printers are encouraged to document their creative process and submit their models by January 22 to be included in an exhibition at the Taipei Contemporary Art Center the following day.

The two-thousand-year-old city, described on UNESCO’s website as “one of the most important cultural centers in the world,” was seized by ISIS last year. Other Palmyran architectural treasures decimated by ISIS include the Temple of Bel and the Temple of Baalshamin.

#NewPalmyra was initiated by Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian activist and open source developer who works to make Syria’s history accessible to the world. He started virtually reconstructing Palmyra in 2005. The project was put on hold when he was arrested in 2012 for unknown charges but Barry Threw and fellow activists revitalized the project in October.

The exhibition will close on January 31 and all models and work from the show will be released into the public domain under a Creative Commons Zero 1.0 license.