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Healing Our Lady

Rebuilding an icon: a call for the sharing of open data to help restore Notre-Dame

Pigeon outside notre dameSince its completion more than 675 years ago, the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame has captivated millions of people with its incomparable beauty. From its legendary stained glass rose window to its towering spire, it’s widely regarded as one of the most stunning examples of medieval architecture in history.

A staple of the Parisian skyline and a global icon, the recent tragedy which saw the cathedral engulfed in flames shook Parisians and onlookers around the world. While thankfully no one was hurt, the iconic spire, oak frame and lead roof were lost.

The reconstruction and repair of the damage is a top priority, calling for the work to be completed within five years. One factor which could greatly aid in this process, is the vast amount of data, surveys and documentation that exist on Notre-Dame – information that has been recorded and collected by numerous parties over decades.

Microsoft and Iconem – an innovative startup that specialises in the recreation of endangered cultural heritage sites in 3D – have announced the Open Notre-Dame initiative. Together, they combine their skills to contribute to the restoration of Notre Dame through an open data project.

“Open Notre Dame” is a visual data provision in open source, designed to better understand and analyze the building in its history. This initiative will not only help gather and analyze as many existing documents as possible on the monument but also produce 3D models to make them available to everyone. Through this project, Iconem and Microsoft intend to contribute to preserve and spread the French heritage.

Having already created detailed 3D models of other French heritage sites such as Mont-Saint-Michel, Iconem’s access to data from third parties such as archival plans and photos can provide a historical evolution of the cathedral before the fire – improving the accuracy of the model and roof structure.

The temporal models of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral will be made available on GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform. The opening and the sharing of all these data via GitHub will come directly to feed different initiatives and competences: the EPFL of Lausanne (which creates dynamic models of cities), and Inria, the consortium Humanun (CNRS and Archeovision) – and will allow feeding all the scientific studies around the building. Many partners already contribute to the project thanks to their surveys, images, and plans that will serve as a basis for these open source models: aerial images (Yann Arthus-Bertrand, TSVP), very high-resolution images (Cornis company and first readings by Iconem), and thousands of pieces of documentation collected by Ubisoft.

If we continue to work together and sharing our knowledge, the great cathedral of Notre-Dame will be restored to its former glory once again.