In December of 2009, I visited Uganda’s Kasubi tombs. Built in 1882, they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. Four kings are buried in the thatched structure. Unfortunately, the historic structure burned to the ground earlier this year (2010). But all is not lost. According to a short article by Elizabeth Preston that appeared in NG (Oct 2010):
Ben Kacyra was one of the inventors of the laser scanner used in the surveys (of at risk historical structures) and is also CyArk’s founder (CyArk’s mission is to collect detailed digital records of cultural hertitage sites around the world.). He was inspired to start the nonprofit after the Taliban demolished Afghanistan’s Bamian Buddhas in 2001. If detailed laser scans are available he reasoned, at least something remains in the event of a site’s loss.
Such a loss occurred earlier this year, when fire consumed the royal Kasubi tombs in Uganda. Four kings of Buganda–a kingdom within the country–were entombed in the wood-and-thatch structure. A year earlier, though, CyArk had collected scans there. Within days of the fire, a Buganda prince was talking to CyArk about rebuilding.
CyArk has identified more than 800 at-risk sites to survey. Where resources allow, it works with an international network of paartners to scan the sites–38 so far. All data is archived and publicly available at cyark.org.