Ghazni Towers Project Supports Preservation of a Cultural Landmark

Posted by Ayaan Carter
August 30, 2014
A National Park Service Architect Documents the Ghazni Towers in Afghanistan
Detail of the Intricate Brickwork on the Mas'ud III Tower
Architects Who Worked on the Ghazni Towers Documentation Project Are Pictured
3D Modeling View of the Ghazni Towers

In the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)'s Office of Digital Communications, we strive to tell the Department of State’s story through engaging, visually arresting online content.  Digital storytelling helps us share the Department's goals, as well as the results of programs and initiatives with the American public and the world.

This month, we launched a virtual exhibition highlighting a two-year effort on the Ghazni Towers in Afghanistan.  From 2011 to 2013, ECA’s Cultural Heritage Center and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul funded a unique collaboration between the U.S. National Park Service, the U.S. National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture to document the Ghazni Towers, also referred to as the “Towers of Victory,” or minarets.  Built during the Ghaznavid Empire (963-1187 A.D.), the 75-foot tall towers are an internationally recognized symbol of Afghanistan’s history and cultural heritage.

During the two-year collaboration, U.S. and Afghan architects used laser scanning, high-resolution photographs, and architectural drawings to document the Ghazni Towers as a first step toward future preservation.

From Documentation to Virtual Exhibition

The virtual exhibition of the Ghazni Towers Documentation Project shares the interagency efforts to record and preserve this cultural landmark in an engaging and visually stunning platform.

GhazniTowers.state.gov is inspired by the technology used in the New York Times’ “Snow Fall” interactive article. Our virtual exhibition features 3-D modeling, an aerial view of one tower’s laser scans, and photographs of the inscriptions -- all documented to a level of accuracy never previously achieved.  The Ghazni Towers virtual exhibition tells the story of the city once at the heart of the Silk Road.  The “History” page shares the story of Ghazni’s rise as an imperial capital and its destruction at the hands of Genghis Khan’s armies. The rest of the virtual exhibition details the architects' difficult work using high-tech equipment that had to be completed in just two days due to the security situation in Ghazni.  Two Afghan university students then translated high-definition panoramic photography and laser scan data into traditional architectural line drawings on an international exchange program to Washington, D.C.

This virtual exhibition's success encourages us to continue to showcase public diplomacy efforts in evermore creative ways.

About the Author: Ayaan Carter serves as the Director of Digital Communications in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Follow @ECAatState on Twitter.

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