Researchers create blockchain verification service for cultural artifacts.

Researchers create blockchain verification service for cultural artifacts.

The Blockchain Revolution in the Cultural Heritage Sector

Computer scientist Adel Khelifi from the University of Abu Dhabi and archaeologist Mark Altaweel from University College London have recently introduced a groundbreaking verification-as-a-service model for cultural artifacts. Named Salsal, this initiative utilizes Web3 technology to determine and record the authenticity and provenance of historical items in an immutable and transparent manner.

The motivation behind Salsal is to bridge the gap between the world of historical artifacts and an on-chain validation system that cannot be tampered with or counterfeited. Altaweel explains that the service will be available specifically to “cultural heritage organizations,” aiming to provide a reliable and globally recognized registry for items of historical significance.

At present, there is no official universal registry for historical artifacts, despite various jurisdictions having laws governing the procurement, trade, and collection of cultural items. As a result, many valuable artifacts, such as the Honjo Masamune and the Crown Jewels of Ireland, have been lost to time or stolen. Additionally, countless items have been looted from historically significant sites before experts had the opportunity to document them properly.

The Salsal project aims to address these challenges by creating a robust protocol for identifying, grading, and recording information about specific artifacts using a suite of technology tools. Cultural heritage organizations can upload images and descriptions of their collections to the service, which are then evaluated by a group of experts using a standardized grading system similar to the one employed by the Museums Association.

Once an artifact has been validated as legitimate, the collector has the option to convert it into a Non-Fungible Token (NFT). NFTs are unique digital assets whose data is stored on the blockchain, ensuring the accurate and immutable documentation of ownership transfers. By leveraging blockchain technology, Salsal helps establish a trustworthy and transparent record of an artifact’s provenance.

The ultimate goal of the Salsal project is to achieve mass adoption of its service among cultural heritage organizations. The researchers envision a future where curators aspire to have their collections validated through Salsal as a matter of verification. This validation process could be compared to having a rare collectible, such as a comic book, graded by a commercial validator, adding value and credibility to the artifact.

While databases containing information on historical artifacts already exist, the establishment of a unified and immutable database running on blockchain technology can effectively combat theft and looting. By mandating sellers and curators to document the provenance of artifacts on an immutable blockchain, potential buyers can easily verify the authenticity and legitimacy of historical items, discouraging illegal activities.

The Salsal project represents a significant step forward in utilizing blockchain technology within the cultural heritage sector. By combining the decentralized and transparent nature of blockchain with the expertise of cultural heritage organizations, the initiative brings a new level of trust and authenticity to the preservation and trade of historical artifacts. With its potential to revolutionize the industry, Salsal serves as a promising example of the blockchain’s transformative power beyond the realm of finance and into the preservation of humanity’s rich cultural heritage.