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GEO 2017-2019 Work Programme


Earth Observations for Cultural Heritage Documentation

Activity ID: 86


Cultural heritage (CH) is a testimony of past human activity, and, as such, cultural heritage objects exhibit great variety in their nature, size and complexity; from small artifacts and museum items to cultural landscapes, from historic buildings and ancient monuments to city centres and archaeological sites (Patias, 2007). Cultural heritage around the globe suffers from wars, natural disasters and human negligence.

The importance of cultural heritage documentation is well recognized and there is an increasing pressure to document our heritage both nationally and internationally. This has alerted international organizations to the need for issuing guidelines describing the standards for documentation. Charters, resolutions and declarations by international organisations underline the importance of documentation of cultural heritage for the purposes of conservation works, management, appraisal, assessment of the structural condition, archiving, publication and research. Important ones include the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and UNESCO, including the famous Venice Charter, The International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, 1964, (UNESCO, 2005).

Earth Observation can highly accelerate the documentation of CH, while engaging multi-disciplinary societies (e.g. archaeologists, architects, historians, librarians, etc.) in GEO activities, not previously interested. Recent high resolution satellite imagery provides the means to easily map areas in large scales. However, detailed specifications are needed, as well as how remotely sensed data can be used to derive accurate cartography, which UNESCO can then use in its requests to countries to provide improved cartography for the UNESCO World Heritage database.

 Activities for the period

General activities include:

  • Mobilize multi-disciplinary communities in EO;
  • Provide a forum to international organizations, scientists, stakeholders and wide public;
  • Exchange of know-how, experiences and ideas;
  • Showcase best practices;
  • Promote innovation in use of EO/GEOSS to CH activities.

Future plans

  • Connect CH to other SBAs;
  • Provide expertise in extreme/rapid calamities to international organizations;
  • Capitalize on previously financed activities/projects;
  • Organize expert meetings, dissemination info-days, capacity building workshops together with; other organizations (e.g. UNESCO, ICOMOS, International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property [ICCROM], ISPRS, CIPA).


  • Baden-Württemberg Stipendium (BWS);
  • European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST);
  • International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS).



Members: China, EC, Germany, Spain.

Participating Organizations: ISPRS.

Others: International Cartographic Association (ICA); International Committee for Documentation of Cultural Heritage (CIPA); International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

Leadership & Contributors (this list is being populated)




Implementing Entity



Petros Patias