Cultural Heritage Imaging


Visualizing the future at Arqueologica 2.0, Seville, Spain
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
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.


Live From CAA – Strategies for a Brighter Future
March 26, 2009, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Conferences, Workshops

By Michael Ashley

Participants of the 2009 Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology (CAA) gathered early this morning (early for those of us in California PST) to discuss and debate practical approaches for preserving our past digitally. 

discussion digital conservation for archaeology

discussion digital conservation for archaeology

The workshop, entitled ‘Practical resources and integrated services for preserving Cultural Heritage: Strategies for a Brighter Future,’ sought to put a spotlight on the diverse standards for documenting cultural heritage, especially in the creation, management and preservation of digital resources. 

Chairs on hand were Stephen Stead (Paveprime Ltd), Mark Mudge (Cultural Heritage Imaging), and Carla Schroer (Cultural Heritage Imaging). Michael Ashley (Cultural Heritage Imaging / UC Berkeley) joined via iChat from California. C0-Organizer Cinzia Perlingieri wasn’t present but participated in the first workshop of this series, held in CAA 2007

A small but intimate gathering, we kicked off with a video position paper I prepared (available on YouTube soon, check the Cultural Heritage Imaging channel later this week), then jumped into a discussion that centered on what is important to save and how, and for how long. Steve seconded my point that we should by taking a 1000 year strategic view of data. In order to do this, it’s essential to capture the context and decision making steps that went into creating the data in the first place. This is most often not done, in part because most data schemes either don’t allow for it or don’t make it easy to do. For some thoughts on the long, long term, check out the Long Now Foundation (quoted in the video paper):

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and promote “slower/better” thinking. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.

Take-aways: We agreed that capturing good semantic information about ‘what matters’ is not trivial and is still really hard to do. But we also agreed to stop whining and get on with it. Steve suggested we start by building out a spot to carry on the discussion in the CIDOC documentation discussion forum, and we all agreed this is a great start. We’ll also work to promote these ideas in our own practices and organizations. 

I’ll update this post with a list of participants and organizations once I get it next week.