20 July, 2018
A new role for blockchain technology has come to light recently, thanks to a team of three faculty members at China’s Tsinghua University.
The team submitted a patent application in April—revealed last week—which outlines the use of blockchain to preserve cultural heritage.
Specifically, the researchers have developed a two-part system for storing and sharing digital versions of artifacts and other culturally significant objects on a blockchain.
The first part consists of scanning the object and creating a virtual model through 3D computing. This situates the object in the digital world so that it is, in essence, data that can be stored and transferred.
The second part consists of storing every scanned object’s data on a private blockchain, and possibly allowing other cultural and historical institutions (such as museums) to be part of the network as participating nodes. Participants can work together to contribute to the shared ledger, using their respective archives and collections to update it.
Whenever the blockchain, or ledger of cultural heritage data, gets updated, it will generate a hash that will also produce a public version of the full ledger. This way anyone can view—but not modify—the hypothetically worldwide collection of cultural heritage, making it a true distribution of knowledge.
The research team, which includes Tan Jiajia, a postdoctoral researcher and Lu Xiaobu, the head of the university’s Academy of Art and Design, further posits in the patent itself:
“Based on the unique design of blockchain for exchanging information, the digital identity of each cultural heritage can be transferred among different parties at lower costs with higher efficiency, so that we can enlarge their economic and social values.”
CoinDesk has made the full patent application available for public viewing on Scribd.com.