UNESCO builds new maps to experience our world heritage

Mikel Maron
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Nov 24, 2020

UNESCO builds new maps to experience our world heritage

Mikel Maron

Guest

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Guest

Nov 24, 2020

Exploring ancient history shouldn’t require an ancient experience

The pandemic makes online engagement of world heritage critical. Teams across the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are building new experiences with web maps to evoke and explain these special places.

UNESCO’s profound mandate is the stewardship of humanity’s culture, reaching back a century to a committee established by the League of Nations. That mission has grown to protect and preserve significant places for posterity, especially through times of great upheaval like the world is currently experiencing. Closures have threatened the economy of places which depend on travel and exploration, and also put more pressure on outdoor landscapes. Heritage continues to feel the pressure of development, like the current controversy surrounding road construction near Stonehenge.

That’s why we’ve been proud to support and see Mapbox tools deployed by UNESCO. 

UK History, meet #Interactivemap🗺️

The United Kingdom is home to 171 UNESCO sites and other cultural preservation projects. To engage with new, more diverse audiences and increase awareness of these sites and their surrounding communities, the UNESCO UK Communications team embarked on a project to refresh their website with a mapping solution that would give their sites more visibility and context. Uniquely among World Heritage websites, they’ve incorporated polygons representing the entire protected landscape. Now, people anywhere can explore the UK's extraordinary World Heritage Sites, Global Geoparks, and Biosphere Reserves at a time when it is not always possible to do so in person.

UNESCO UK had already undertaken the hard work of digitizing their location data, including site footprints. Mapbox helped their team get started with the ‘Finder’ impact tool template and Mapbox Studio to turn their data into an interactive showcase. Together, we found ways to integrate elements of their overarching website design into the cartography, including custom icons for each type of site.

"It has been fantastic working with the Community team at Mapbox over the past few months. The collaboration has helped our team acquire fundamental GIS skills and equip us to independently use their powerful, yet intuitive, Mapbox Studio and other tools in the future." —Matthew Rabagliati Head of Policy, Research and Communications, UK National Commission for UNESCO

A journey through history

In partnership with National Geographic and the European Union, UNESCO developed World Heritage Journeys Europe, a media-rich interactive web experience that lets everyone explore Europe’s World Heritage sites with new context and perspective, including ways to protect their outstanding value and support the local communities that sustain them. 

The site, nominated for a Webby Award for travel website design, showcases four unique journeys through European history: explore Europe’s hidden underground, travel through ancient Rome, woo a history buff with romantic legends, or take a stroll through prominent royal palaces and gardens.

The design of the site blends a rich catalogue of information about each site with satellite imagery, photographs, and custom-styled static and interactive maps. The library of media and metadata is combined with geospatial data using a nimble Elebase database.


The future of history

Technology is opening up new ways to evoke the experience of a place and present content in engaging, accessible formats. With the success of improved web map experiences, UNESCO teams are continuing to explore new location tools to add even more context to their sites, including LIDAR, augmented reality, and detailed 3D modeling of individual sites.

Any lover of history and travel knows that there is something special about physically standing in the same location as the peoples and cultures before us. With so much rich cultural and historical content to explore, a map helps us connect, protect, and plan for when we can all travel again.

Mapbox partners with positive impact organizations from across UN agencies, international organizations, non-profits, and educational institutions. If you would like support for a cultural mapping project, start a conversation with the Mapbox Community team.

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