The new Task Group 5 – Earth Observation in Cultural Heritage documentation

It has been a long term target for CIPA to introduce and stress the importance of CH applications to satellite/Earth Observation societies, from one hand, and on the other to convince EO societies to introduce CH applications in their agenda.

CIPA Executive Board decided to establish a new Task Group on “Earth Observation in Cultural Heritage documentation” in order to integrate Earth Observation technologies in documentation of CH, while engaging multi-disciplinary societies (eg. archaeologists, architects, historians, librarians, etc) in GEO/COST/CIPA activities.


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).

Only recently new nominated WH sites are proposed with some cartographic information included in the nomination file request. Terrestrial, aerial or satellite imagery are rarely included. The problem is even worst when we consider World Heritage sites nominated some years ago. Most of them they do not have proper cartography with detailed buffer zones indicated, etc.

Recent high resolutions satellite imagery provides the means to easily map areas in large scales. Archive map and photographs are lucked. Although UNESCO provides now some minor specifications these specifications are not at all considered for old inscribed sites.

Only if these detailed specifications are provided as well as about how remotely sensed data can be used to derive such cartography can the UNESCO request to the countries to provide improved cartography for the UNESCO World Heritage database.

Earth Observation can highly accelerate the documentation of CH, while engaging multi-disciplinary societies in EO/CH activities, not previously interested. A quick search at the Google Trends reveal the simple fact that the terms “cultural heritage” and “cartography” are much more frequently used by the public than the more technical and less popular term “earth observation”.

Expected Interest

The importance and global coverage of CH sites doe not need much argumentation. We will only note the international institutional interest like the specific interest of UNESCO [URL1], the existence and activities of the CIPA [URL2] (a joint venture of ISPRS and ICOMOS), the extended activities in CH and EO of ISPRS [URL3], the cartographic activities of ICA [URL4] or the extended list of trans-domain projects supported by COST [URL5].

Open Call for Participation

Currently an Open call for participation is in effect, in order to establish a matrix of members, contacts and expertise and plan our activities on a yearly basis.

I would like to invite you to take active part in these activities, by sending back to me ( a short note with your :name, affiliation, contact details/email/website, and a few lines with your interest/expertise in the area.

One may also wish to consult the following websites of international related activities we plan to cooperate with:

  • GEO – Earth Observation in Cultural Heritage : A GEO Community Activity

TG5 Coordinator 

Petros Patias


ICOMOS, 2005. ICOMOS Charters, Resolutions and Declarations.

[URL1]: UNESCO Space for Heritage

[URL2]: CIPA – The International Committee for Documentation of Cultural Heritage

[URL3]: ISPRS – The International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

[URL4]: ICA – The International Cartographic Association

[URL5]: COST Trans-Domain Actions, eg.: