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Space for Twin Cities: Cultural Heritage seminar

Historic sites across the world are under threat from deterioration and damages caused by pollution and time. Representatives from Rome, Venice and Cyprus discussed how space technology can help preserve cultural heritage on December 10, 2020 in a seminar organised by ESA’s Downstream Gateway department.

The seminar was presented and moderated by Donatella Ponziani, Head of the Downstream Gateway Office at ESA.

Jolanda Patruno, Earth Observation Exploitation Platforms Support Engineer at ESA, illustrated all the challenges that historic sites face nowadays: natural factors, such as subsidence, and artificial ones as human sprawl and climate change. Earth Observation data can help in assessing risks, conduct preventive investigations for infrastructure realisation and disseminate the culture awareness. The Copernicus constellation in particular, with the Sentinel family of satellites, has been crucial in recent years in activities of monitoring and prevention.

Marina Marcelli, Official Responsible for the Monuments Risk Map GIS at the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage in Rome, presented the “Observers Project” GIS (Geographic Information System). This project was started in 2010 after the collapse of a part of the Aurelian Walls in 2007 and is aimed at developing a risk map of walls and aqueducts to better plan maintenance and restauration activities. Gabriele Leoni, Geologist at Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA), presented the PROTHEGO project aimed at applying new space technologies (i.e. satellite and radar interferometry) for the protection of cultural heritage against geohazard. The methodology starts with the identification of risks for UNESCO sites across Europe and then define early warning systems to plan restoring and mitigation interventions.

Athos Agapiou, Senior Researcher in the Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics at Cyprus University of Technology, showed how satellite data from the Copernicus constellation is and was used in the past for archaeology and cultural landscape investigations. For example, data acquired from Sentinel-1 provide the opportunity to process images before and after an earthquake and blend the information with geographical and ground stations data to perform deformation analysis. Similarly, optical images from Sentinel-2 can be used to map urban areas. All this data, together with archive information, can be used to estimate the trend and the overall change in the vicinity of the archaeological site in the surrounding areas.

Arianna Traviglia, Director of Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology at Italian Institute of Technology, illustrated how Earth Observation can have a crucial role for a variety of applications in cultural heritage discovery and management. Earth Observation data are normally stored in GIS to enable the creation of overview maps that can be then elaborated for archaeological risk assessment based on remote sensing identification. EO data provide the capacity to check large blocks of landscapes in a short timeframe, get a global vision of the landscape and its underlying connections and monitor changes over time.

Piera di Vito, Space Solutions Technical Officer at ESA, presented two projects developed with the support of the ESA Space Applications programme tailored on concrete issues faced by municipalities. The “Artek” project followed a multidisciplinary approach, with the use of Earth Observation data, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle technology (UAV), satellite communication assets and terrestrial data to support the preventive maintenance of sites. The “5G for L’ART” series of projects, which involved L’Aquila and Abruzzo Region, Rome and Turin, leveraged on both space and ground based technologies for cultural heritage fruition and preservation.

Please find in the following table the presentations of the event.


Jolanda Patruno – Earth Observation Exploitation Platforms Support Engineer, ESA Space for Twin Cities – Cultural Heritage
Marina Marcelli – Official Responsible for the Monuments Risk Map G.I.S. at the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, Rome
Gabriele Leoni – Geologist, Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA)
Rome Ancient Walls Satellite Monitoring Project
Athos Agapiou – Senior Researcher in the Department of Civil Engineering and Geomatics, Cyprus University of Technology Cultural heritage: The missing layer of the Space Programme
Arianna Traviglia – Director of Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, Italian Institute of Technology Earth Observation and Cultural Heritage: a Smart match
Piera di Vito – Space Solutions Technical Officer, ESA Space for Twin Cities – Cultural Heritage

You can watch here the full recording of the event.



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