Technology is often criticized for destroying our sense of nostalgia and connection to the past.

But that line of thinking misses the mark, especially in the light of recent efforts to preserve historic landmarks.

Some recent work to digitally archive the Brandenburg Gate, a key Berlin landmark that connects to key historic events in different centuries, is part of a larger trend of how scanning and other tools can help historians and scientists better understand and preserve the past.

The Work of Digital Preservation

The effort to digitally capture the Brandenburg Gate is a partnership between CyArk, Seagate and Iron Mountain, along with the German government.

CyArk in particular has been on a tear in the last several years scanning UNESCO world heritage sites.

CyArk uses laser scanning to create a digital replica of the site, which can then be analyzed through computer software. The replicas can be used for further study by preservationists and historians who want to analyze it further in order to unlock more clues about the past.

“Digitally preserving the Brandenburg Gate is important because this structure is more than a municipal Monument, it is an icon of this city and country,” Elizabeth Lee, vice-president of CyArk, said.

“The Gate’s scanning also contributes to the global conservation community that is working diligently to conserve the world’s heritage sites — especially in the Middle East, where hundreds of monuments are at risk of destruction.”

brandenburg gate

American Landmarks Also Get the Treatment

The situation isn’t unique to international historical sites. The National Park Service runs the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training.

The practice is similar, as the US agency seeks to use technology to create digital maps of important historic and cultural sites.

To get a feel for how this has been done with other sites, check out this archive of the Washington Monument. You’re able to zoom in and manipulate the iconic obelisk to get a unique viewpoint unavailable without this cool tool. The same has been done with the Lincoln Memorial and other Washington sites.

Such technology has the potential to improve our understanding of the architecture, symbolism and history around such objects. The Brandenburg Gate results will be unveiled at CyArk’s Annual Summit at the Berlin State Library on Oct. 20 and 21.