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Space for Cultural Heritage Workshop

This one-day workshop organised by the ESA Downstream Gateway covered how the space sector combined with cutting edge technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can help protect the world’s cultural heritage.


Topic overview: How Space technology can help discover and preserve our cultural heritage?


Worldwide, our cultural heritage is endangered by many factors, both natural and artificial ones: flooding, earthquakes, erosion, looting, urban sprawling and climate change. Some 5% of the 869 World Heritage sites are in danger and space technology can give an important contribution to the discovery and maintenance of those sites. Earth Observation data, provided by the Copernicus satellites constellation, can help by monitoring the degradation of sites, the level of air pollution and the coastal erosion. Satellites can also provide useful insights in the form of change maps, highlighting the changes over time of a certain area in order to better assess the risks of incidents. This technology, combined with the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, can provide a fundamental contribution for the sector.

The European Space Agency is committed in providing cutting edge technologies and useful data to governments and organisations to help in the discovery and preservation of our cultural heritage.

For more information on the topic, please read our article “Earth Observation applications and machine learning for cultural heritage preservation“.



Jan Wörner, Director General of ESA, Donatella Ponziani, Downstream Gateway Officer at ESA and Mechtild Rössler, Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Heritage Division, opened this workshop illustrating the opportunities that the space sector can offer to professionals in the field of cultural heritage. The DG of ESA presented the Downstream Gateway as the first point of contact between the 4 pillars (Science and Exploration, Safety and Security, Applications, Enabling and Support) and the business sector, with a perspective of “One Space to the Customer”. Dr Rössler illustrated the long story of collaborations between the space and the cultural heritage sectors, dating since the first photographs taken from satellites to identify new sites to the current uses of data from space combined with artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques.

Jan Wörner – Director General, ESA Space for cultural heritage
Mechtild Rössler – Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the Heritage Division Live presentation

Here the registration of the introduction.

Panel 1: Policy Perspectives: Opportunities, Trends, and Challenges in the field
of Cultural Heritage


In the first panel it was discussed the relevant impact that climate change has on the conservation of our cultural heritage and how European organisation are identifying and exchanging good practices and innovative methods for the protection of it. UNOSAT work was presented, a programme of the United Nations that works to discover and analyse satellite imagery to report on destruction to housing, graves, cultural heritage sites and more, together with ICOMOS, a non-governmental international voluntary organisation for the preservation of world’s monuments and sites that makes use of data recorded from space sensors to create multi-temporal and multi-scale prospecting and change analysis of sites, and ICCROM, an intergovernmental organisation with the mandate of promoting the conservation of cultural heritage worldwide that uses space data for their activities.

This panel was moderated by Marco Ferrazzani, Head of Legal Services Department at ESA.

A. Grady – Principal Officer, Directorate-General for Education and Culture, European Commission Strengthening cultural heritage resilience for climate change
E. Bjørgo – Director, Satellite Analysis and Applied Research at United Nations Institute for Training and Research, UNITAR Space for cultural heritage
A. Georgopoulo – Board Member and Vice President CIPA, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Recording Cultural Heritage from Space
V. Magar – Unit Manager, International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) Space for cultural heritage

Here the registration of the first panel.

Panel 2: Users and Stakeholders: Innovative Applications and Services in the field of Cultural Heritage


The second panel focused on technological solutions adopted to elaborate data used for cultural heritage preservation. In particular, were presented the works of Vection Technologies in real time softwares and virtual technologies, the experimental museology initiative of EPFL aimed at increasing the engagement of the final user through multisensory platforms, the solutions of micro-satellites provided by ICEYE for the cultural heritage sector and how Earth Observation data combined with artificial intelligence can help cultural heritage preservation efforts by local governments.

The panel was moderated by Geraldine Naja, Head of Industrial Policy and Audit Department at ESA.

G. Sorrento – CEO, Mindesk Space for cultural heritage
S. Kenderdine – Lead of the Laboratory for Experimental Museology (eM+), École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Computational museology futures for archives
A. Radius – SAR Engineer, ICEYE Space for cultural heritage
A. Traviglia – Coordinator, Centre for Cultural Heritage Technology, Italian Institute of Technology Space for cultural heritage
F. Conesa – Landscape and Geoarchaeology Expert, Catalan Institute of Classical Archaeology Sentinel-based applications for the automated detection and monitoring of Cultural Heritage_Conesa

Here the registration of the second panel.

Panel 3: Space Meets Culture: ESA’s involvement in the field of Cultural Heritage


The third panel was focused on how space technology and data can be used to monitor and protect the cultural heritage. In particular, ESA experts illustrated the agency’s contributions in supporting the development of new projects and solutions through the use of Earth Observation data and 5G applications for the preservation of cultural heritage sites.

This panel was moderated by R. Mugellesi Dow, Business Applications Manager, Downstream Business Applications at ESA.

G. Fiore – Project Manager, Eurisy Satellite applications for Cultural Heritage
J. Patruno – Earth Observation Exploitation Platforms Support Engineer, ESA Space for cultural heritage
P. Di Vito – Space Solutions Technical Officer, ESA Space for cultural heritage

Here the registration of the third panel.

Final greetings


Jan Wörner, Director General of ESA, and Donatella Ponziani, Downstream Gateway Officer at ESA, delivered the final greetings for the workshop.

Here the registration.


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