Crowdsourcing the Reconstruction of Lost Heritage

Short thesis

The destruction of cultural heritage by human or natural causes isn’t new, but the way we can help is. Although the original artifacts and structures can never be replaced, their cultural memory can be preserved thanks to uniting web development, image-based reconstructions, and crowdsourcing. Building on its first version as Project Mosul, associated with the demolition of archaeological sites and museums in northern Iraq, Rekrei pushes this development and vision internationally to regions in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.


On the 26th of February, 2015, Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State), released a video depicting the systematic destruction of the Mosul Cultural Museum. This was not the first time that Daesh attacked heritage, and the museum was yet another casualty in the wake of destruction of the extremist group.

Rekrei (formerly Project Mosul) was founded as a response to this destruction at http://rekrei.org/. Launched just under two weeks from the release of the video, the project aimed to crowdsource the virtual reconstruction of the destroyed museum and eventually release a virtual museum where people around the world could virtually visit the museum and offer a way to digitally preserve its memory. This has already been organised thanks to the Economist Media Lab (Preview:https://vimeo.com/146414382). The project has also expanded to a global scale and increased its presence and actions thanks to the growing participation of public and private organizations without any funding resources.

Thanks to an innumerable amount of images flooding onto the web everyday, the potential for using photos of cultural heritage is ever-increasing. So too, the developments in photogrammetric reconstruction now make it possible to use these images to digitally recreate lost heritage. The key ingredient to this equation is the online platform, which provides a simple user interface for identifying locations of destroyed heritage, uploading and sorting images, and a 3D gallery of completed reconstructions (http://rekrei.org/gallery).

This talk will introduce the project, highlight its achievements, and offer a basic explanation of how you can contribute to this crowdsourcing initiative.