Digitalization of Chernobyl: mobile application developers are scanning the Exclusion Zone

The team presented a demo version of the first mobile application of Chernobyl and conducted a digital scan of the Exclusion Zone objects to save them in 3D models and virtual spaces, preventing the loss of cultural heritage due to natural destruction and fires.

During the fires this spring, Ukraine lost some of its Chernobyl monuments. The fire affected about 5% of the protected area’s territory, 12 remote villages, the sanatorium “Smaragdovyy”, the pioneer camp “Kazkovyy”, the military city of Chernobyl-2. The list is not exhaustive, but even it makes it clear that much of Ukraine’s cultural heritage has been lost, and if nature and fauna can still be restored, then human-made structures – no, because in addition to fires, they are also damaged by natural destruction, due to which visitors it is forbidden to enter the building of the Exclusion Zone.

That is why the team of the first mobile application of Chernobyl started scanning the objects of the Zone and digitized a significant number of them, including the Ferris Wheel, items of the central square of the city of Pripyat, radar station Duga. Digitalization of objects is carried out with modern means of photogrammetry, laser scanning of objects, and spherical photos and videos for virtual spaces, which use: drones, laser scanners, and high-quality imaging equipment.

“I have been involved in Chernobyl for about three years, implementing cultural and social projects in the Exclusion Zone. During the fires in April 2020, I was the head of the Volunteer Headquarters at the Public Council of DAZV on the Exclusion Zone border. I saw with my own eyes how the abandoned villages and famous locations of the Zone were burning. It was at that moment that it became clear to me that Chernobyl, as we know it now, had little time left. Nature is returning, large trees have already grown on the roofs and balconies of houses in Pripyat, buildings are collapsing, villages are overgrown. We must preserve what we have for the history of Ukraine and our children.

These are work with tangible and intangible cultural heritage, fixation of the moment, and digitalization of historical objects by modern means. This is a critical issue! How can we forgive ourselves, for example, if something valuable burns down in case of possible fires?”– well-known Ukrainian media artist, author of the ARTEFACT project Valery Korshunov.

Digitized objects will be the basis of the map of the first mobile application of Chernobyl, dedicated to the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. The organizers demonstrated the work of a demo version, which will also accompany tourists in the Exclusion Zone, even without Internet access. The mobile application will provide information on the current state of the Exclusion Zone, prepare for travel and even allow you to see Chernobyl in a virtual format accompanied by an audio guide and introduce the world to the history of the Chernobyl disaster. The application is available in Ukrainian and English and will be available in late October.

“With this project, we solve perhaps the most critical problem of the information space about Chernobyl – we collect all the verified information in one modern digital solution, where everyone can find the appropriate content, without manipulation and distortion of facts. No matter what you are interested in – cultural heritage, art, news, the current state of the Zone, the history of the tragedy, the study of declassified materials – you can see it all in one application of your smartphone.

The area and history have a strong emotional basis, so to dare to visit or just read the official sources and find verified and truthful information on some issues is now merely impossible without additional effort. The task of the application is to simplify this path and contribute to a more in-depth study of the topic and its impact on our history and social code of both Ukrainians and the whole world,” said Maria Tintul, project manager.

An experienced team of developers is working on the mobile application, which already has in its portfolio applications created for the HeForShe Ukraine project and with the support of UN Women, EASY PAY, and last year this team created an application that opened the portal to Chernobyl with Burning Man. Preferably, each team member has a family connection to the Chernobyl accident: the parents-liquidators or the mention of evacuation.

The project is supported by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation and, with the assistance of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, the State Agency of Ukraine on Exclusion Zone Management, the National Chernobyl Museum, IOP Center, NGO European Institute of Chernobyl.

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Ukrainian Cultural Foundation is a state institution established in 2017 as a new model of providing competitive support for state support and promotion of initiatives in culture and creative industries. By the current legislation, the activity of the Foundation is an integral part of the policy and identified priorities of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine.

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