From left, NTT Data sales and marketing deputy manager Asahi Hasebe, NTT Data Asia Pacific chief executive Ken Tsuchihashi and NTT Data Indonesia president director Junji Kawahara in Jakarta on Thursday. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

Using Digital Technology to Preserve Cultural Heritage


MARCH 01, 2020

Jakarta. Digitization is one way to make cultural heritage a legacy for the future generations, according to NTT Data Asia Pacific chief executive Ken Tsuchihashi.

NTT Data is the Japanese tech company behind the digital archiving of many of the world's cultural assets, including the recently launched Asean Cultural Heritage Digital Archive (ACHDA).

Their large-sized data archive, the AMLAD, has assisted Asean in converting 160 of their cultural heritage relics to a digital format, including 3D model image, video and audio recording.

"We are a system integrator who offers IT services and consultations to various institutions in different sectors, including banking. While there are other companies in our line of work, our charm point is that we entirely develop our own system to cater to industry needs. This includes providing the AMLAD as a solution for the looming fear of degrading cultural heritage," Ken told the Jakarta Globe at the Asean Secretariat building in Jakarta on Thursday.


A Panacea for Degradation

Cultural heritage relics are known for being extremely susceptible to natural or man-made disasters or degradation.

Often, restorations are carried out from time to time with hopes that the asset in hand can return to its original state.

"To replicate its original state, a reference of the cultural asset prior to the degradation is needed. This is where our digital archive chimes in as we can portray even the slightest detail such as dents and bumps that can be zoomed up to 0.01 microns," Ken said.

On the ACHDA, the smallest objects submitted were Malaysian 16th-century gold coins with a diameter of 1 centimeter. One of them was the gold coin used in the reign of Sultan Alau'uddin Riayat Shah.

A 3D model of Paris Clock presented by the National Library of Thailand. (Photo Courtesy of ACDHA)
A 3D model of Paris Clock adorned with golden carvings of Mekhala and Ramansura's clash of the titans. (Photo courtesy of ACDHA)

Meanwhile, the largest object to date is the Paris Clock submitted by the National Library of Thailand with a height of 202.5 meters. The clock is adorned with golden carvings of the clash between lightning goddess Mekhala and thunder god Ramansura.

The AMLAD system is even capable of covering large-scale assets such as buildings, according to Ken.

"Another key feature is that the AMLAD system can be set to either private or public. When it is publicly accessible [like the ACDHA], we can pass it to future generations and contribute to education by providing information on cultural heritage for academic research," he said.

Success Stories

Before assisting Asean, the AMLAD system was initially created to archive the Japanese National Diet Library digitally. As time passed, the system was applied to other institutions with similar concerns, including the Koyasan University in Japan and the Vatican Apostolic Library in Italy. The latter was then considered one of the company's most defining success stories.

"At the Vatican Library, we have digitized 3,000 manuscripts over a four-year period since 2014 with the help of our branch in Italy. There is a total of an estimated 82,000 delicate manuscripts [from the Middle Age and Humanistic period] in the premise that we would like to digitize," NTT Data sales and marketing deputy manager Asahi Hasebe said.

A digitized page of Aeneid, a rare manuscript written by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. The illustration shows how Creusa tries to detain her husband Aeneas from battle. (Photo Courtesy of the Vatican Library)
A digitized page of a rare manuscript of Virgil's The Aeneid. (Photo courtesy of the Vatican Library)

One of the digitized works is an illuminated 1,600-year old manuscript of "The Aeneid," a Latin epic poem written by the ancient Roman poet Virgil in around 400 A.D.

The tech company is keen on adding more success stories to their track record.

With a branch in Indonesia, NTT Data is open for cooperation with the local industry, according to NTT Data Indonesia president director Junji Kawahara.