Cultural Heritage Imaging


Wanted: Heritage Heroes by cwillen

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) declares World Environment Day each June, making this month a time to focus on how we can improve our environment and our planet.

Our global cultural heritage is a vital element of our environment. Like our natural and physical world, heritage sites and artifacts have been adversely affected by climate change and other negative environmental effects, many caused by human activities.

UNEP has created the Champions of the Earth Laureates Program to recognize the extraordinary efforts made by dedicated researchers and activists to increase environmental protection and awareness.

CHI has been inspired by the UNEP program to create a Heritage Heroes initiative that appreciates people in the heritage community who have advanced the field in so many ways. UNEP recognition categories include science and innovation, policy, inspiration and action, and entrepreneurial vision.

The CHI team can think of numerous cultural heritage workers who deserve recognition in each of these areas and in other categories, too.

However, for our first nominee, we have selected someone who has really led the way in promoting digital techniques to document and preserve cultural heritage.

Tom Malzbender, senior research scientist at Hewlett Packard Labs, has helped the field of digital cultural heritage by developing, refining, and sharing  advanced imaging techniques and other processes to digitally document and preserve artifacts.

Listen to him describe interactive relighting in a post on this blog. We hope you agree that he is a heritage hero! Let us know about your heritage heroes by posting comments in our blog.

We are interested in all kinds of heroes — not only those who excel in technology, but also those who inspire others to action — historic preservation advocates, fieldwork fiends, educators, and those working in other relevant fields.

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Visualizing the future at Arqueologica 2.0, Seville, Spain by Michael Ashley
June 23, 2009, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Conferences | Tags: ,

by Michael Ashley

arqueologica logo

I had the pleasure of being invited to a special congress in Seville this past week. Arqueologica 2.0 is the first international congress on archaeology and informatics held in Spain. The organizers managed to bring together over 200 participants from 17 countries representing over 100 organizations, to discuss and debate virtual archaeology and its role in archaeological practice. I found the congress to be inspirational, exceptionally well run, and mostly a whole lot of fun.

Participants included representatives from some of the most important organizations that work to document, understand, preserve and communicate cultural heritage around the world. In fact, the congress was a truly international gathering of professionals who are passionate about cultural history and memory.

So often, the discussions of computer graphics and archaeology focuses on the divide between technologists and practitioners of the discipline. I was impressed by the efforts of the congress program facilitators to get us to look beyond the fissure and to the mutual benefits of integrating visualization methods into archaeology.

Jane Crawford and Michael Ashley at the opening session at the site of Italica

Jane Crawford and Michael Ashley at the opening session at the site of Italica

Throughout the congress, many recommendations and suggestions have been forwarded. I mention a few here because they resonate well and I hope we would generally agree are essential to promote the broad adoption of digital technologies in service of archaeology.
Bernie Frischer suggested that future Arqueologica meetings might have workshops to leave behind practical training with participants.
Richard Beacham called for case studies or pilot projects where we can test ideas and refine procedures in the real world.
Graeme Earl and several others suggested that virtual archaeology methodologies are actually archaeological techniques that must be truly integrated and carried out in archaeological practice.

Throughout the congress, many recommendations and suggestions were forwarded. I mention a few here because they resonate well and I hope we would generally agree are essential to promote the broad adoption of digital technologies in service of archaeology.

Bernie Frischer suggested that future Arqueologica meetings might have workshops to leave behind practical training with participants.

Richard Beacham, co-author of the London Charter on visualization in cultural heritage, called for case studies or pilot projects where we can test ideas and refine procedures in the real world.

Graeme Earl and several others suggested that virtual archaeology methodologies are actually archaeological techniques that must be truly integrated and carried out in archaeological practice.

Mediterranea Project

Mediterranea Project

Many of us were kindly invited to listen to Alfredo Grande discuss the ambitious Mediterranea Project, which seeks to integrate the cultural heritage of the Mediterranean for research and public access and enjoyment. Core to the project is an attention to ‘big blocks’ that are essential to archaeological work practice – documentation and research, conservation and preservation, presentation and information.

One of the highlights of the scientific program was the uniquely organized quick fire plenary session that involved 23 of us lined up in the first row of the auditorium. From the stage, Víctor Manuel López-Menchero Bendicho gave us each <2min. to summarize our opinion on the state of virtual archaeology. This led to a lively debate with many more questions than answers, but there was general consensus that even now in 2009, we are only scratching the surface at the potential for digital archaeology.

Daniel Plentinckx in the spotlight during the rapid fire plenary

Daniel Plentinckx in the spotlight during the rapid fire plenary

Arqueologica 2.0 was the first of what the sponsor organization, the Society for Spanish Virtual Archaeology (SEAV) (also launched at the congress), hope will become an annual event. I hope so, not because the world needs another conference, but because the spirit and enthusiasm expressed by our new friends in Spain is what the world needs.

My favorite quote from the congress was made by a colleague, “It’s more important who you work with than what you work on.” I would work with Alfredo and Victor anytime. I am sure we can find some really important things to do in an enjoyable fashion.

Muchas gracias por todo, nuevos amigos!



Tom Malzbender Explains Interactive Relighting by Michael Ashley
June 5, 2009, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Technology | Tags: , ,
Tom Malzbender, senior research scientist at HP labs, explains how reflectance imaging can reveal previously unforeseen details of object, including the remarkable Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient astrological computer, whose purpose was unknown before it was deciphered using RTI and other cutting edge technologies.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Tom is a longtime collaborator with Cultural Heritage Imaging, most recently as senior advisor on an NCPTT training grant, awarded to Cultural Heritage Imaging this year.
To find out more about Interactive Relighting, see the HP Labs Idealab page.


Preserving Places & Objects That Matter by cwillen
June 2, 2009, 8:29 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: , ,

By Claudia Willen

Please join Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) in celebrating National Preservation Month this May. The National Trust for Historic Preservation selected “This Place Matters” as the theme for the 2009 preservation month. Visit the trust’s preservation month page for more stories and inspiration: www.preservationnation.org/take-action/preservation-month.

The CHI team has discovered many places that matter all over the US and the world. CHI wants to show everybody how to digitally preserve the places and objects that matter on our planet and share information about these treasured cultural resources so others will understand why they matter so much and why we need to save them.

Tell Us About the Places and Objects That Matter to You
In honor of National Preservation Month, let the CHI community know what cultural heritage means to you and what you think needs to be digitally documented, physically restored, heroically saved, or just better appreciated in general. We look forward to hearing from you via email or in the blogosphere!