Cultural Heritage Imaging


Illumination of Material Culture: A Symposium on Computational Photography and Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) at The Met, March 7-8, 2017 by chicaseyc

Our guest blogger, Emily B. Frank, is currently pursuing a Joint MS in Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works and MA in History of Art at New York University, Institute of Fine Arts. Thank you, Emily!

With the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) back on the chopping block in the most recent federal budget proposal, I feel particularly privileged to have taken part in the NEH-funded symposium, Illumination of Material Culture, earlier this month.

Co-hosted by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI), the symposium brought together conservators, curators, archaeologists, imaging specialists, cultural heritage and museum photographers, and the gamut of engineers to discuss and debate uses, innovations, and limitations of computational imaging tools. This interdisciplinary audience fostered an environment for collaboration and progress, and a few themes emerged.

The sold-out crowd at the symposium at The Met

The sold-out crowd at the symposium at The Met

(1) The emphasis among practitioners seems to have shifted from isolated techniques to integrating a range of data types.

E. Keats Webb, Digital Imaging Specialist at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute, presented “Practical Applications for Integrating Spectral and 3D Imaging,” the focus of which was capturing and processing broadband 3D data. Holly Rushmeier, Professor of Computer Science at Yale University, gave a talk entitled “Analyzing and Sharing Heterogeneous Data for Cultural Heritage Sites and Objects,” which focused on CHER-Ob, an open source platform developed at Yale to enhance the analysis, integration, and sharing of textual, 2D, 3D, and scientific data. CHI’s Mark Mudge presented a technique for the integrated capture of RTI and photogrammetric data. The theme of integration propagated through the panelists’ presentations and the lightning talks, including but not limited to presentations by Kathryn Piquette, Senior Research Consultant and Imaging Specialist at University College London, on the integration of broadband multispectral and RTI data; Nathan Matsuda, PhD Candidate and National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at Northwestern University, on work at NU-ACCESS with photometric stereo and photogrammetry; as well as a lightning talk by Chantal Stein, in collaboration with Sebastian Heath, Professor of Digital Humanities at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World; and myself, about the integration of photogrammetry, RTI, and multiband data into a single, interactive file in Blender, a free, open source 3D graphics and animation software.

(2) There is an emerging emphasis on big data and the possibilities of machine learning.

Paul Messier, art conservator and head of the Lens Media Lab at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University

Paul Messier, art conservator and head of the Lens Media Lab at the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Yale University

The notion of machine learning and the possibilities it might unlock were addressed in multiple presentations, perhaps most notably in the “RTI: Beyond Relighting,” a panel discussion moderated by Paul Messier, Head of the Lens Media Lab, Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH), Yale University. Dale Kronkright presented work in progress at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in collaboration with NU-ACCESS that utilizes algorithms to track change to the surfaces of paintings, focusing on the dimensional change of metal soaps. Paul Messier briefly described the work being done at Yale to explore the possibilities for machine learning to work iteratively with connoisseurs to push data-driven research forward.

Mark Mudge, President of Cultural Heritage Imaging, leads a panel discussion

Mark Mudge, President of CHI, participates in a panel discussion

(3) The development of open tools for sharing and presenting computational data via the web and social media is catching up.

Graeme Earl, Director of Enterprise and Impact (Humanities) and Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Southampton, UK, gave a keynote entitled “Open Scholarship, RTI-style: Museological and Archaeological Potential of Open Tools, Training, and Data,” which kicked off the discussion about open tools and where the future is heading. Szymon Rusinkiewicz, Professor of Computer Science at Princeton University, presented “Modeling the Past for Scholars and the Public,” a case study of a cross-listed Archaeology-Computer Science course given at Princeton in which students generated teaching tools and web content that provided curatorial narrative for visitors to the museum. CHI’s Carla Schroer presented new tools for collecting and managing metadata for computational photography. Roberto Scopigno, Research Director of the Visual Computing Lab, Consiglio Nazionale delle Richerche (CNR), Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell’Informazione (ISTI), Pisa, Italy, delivered the keynote on the second day of the symposium about 3DHOP, a new web presentation and collaboration tools for computational data.

We had the privilege of hearing from Tom Malzbender, without whose work at HP Labs in the early 2000s this symposium would never have happened.

The keynotes at the symposium were streamed through The Met’s Facebook page. The other talks were recorded and will be available in three to four weeks. Enjoy!

Tom Malzbender, the inventor of RTI, at the podium

Tom Malzbender, the inventor of RTI, at the podium

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Join us! New Free Forums for the RTI Community by cdschroer
September 24, 2012, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Commentary, Grants, Training

This week we are rolling out CHI’s new free forums  for the community of people who are developing and adopting Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) and related computational photography. We have had the idea to do this for some time, and after trying a couple of different forum software packages, getting input from friends, and tinkering with some of the forums setup, we are now ready to invite the larger community. Join us! Sign up for a forums account now: go to http://forums.culturalheritageimaging.org and click the link “Sign In” in the upper right of the window to begin setting up your new account.  You can look at content in the forums without an account, but a free account is required to post there (this is to keep the spammers at bay).

As our RTI training has expanded, and more people are adopting RTI, we are frequently asked how users can see what other people are doing with the technology, and whether CHI offers a place to find answers when difficulties arise. We know many people want to keep up with the latest news on software releases, equipment, and related topics. Our forums were created to answer these needs.  We hope to see the RTI community help each other and share their experiences and insights.

I’d like to say thank-you to those who made this new forums service possible.  First, thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) because we were able to use a little funding from our 21st Century Museum Professionals grant to get the forums going.  This grant, which has enabled 10 4-day training sessions in RTI — we just finished the 9th one this month — has also helped us support updates to our software, user guides, and other materials associated with the adoption and use of RTI at museums and libraries. Sarah Ross did a fine job installing and setting up the forum software for us! The team at CHI has already added content to get the forum going and answered questions that have come in.  We have had a great group of beta testers who tried this out,  posted content, and gave us feedback.

We hope that you, members of our community, will engage in the forums, asking and answering questions to help each other. This is just the beginning; we plan to expand the forums to cover additional topics as the need arises.  Please write to us and let us know what you want from the forums: what will make them the truly useful for you? Send your comments or questions in an email to: forums at culturalheritageimaging.org



Collaborating with Southampton University, UK by cdschroer
June 7, 2010, 12:44 am
Filed under: Conferences, Grants, News

I really enjoy the opportunity to attend conferences and particularly the Computer Applications in Archaeology conference, which was in Granada Spain this year.  It is a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends, share experiences and get advice. This year was also an opportunity to sit down with our collaborators at Southampton University, Graeme Earl and team at the Archaeological Computing Research Group.

Graeme’s team recently won a significant UK grant to work with RTI technology and we are collaborating on the project.  The team there has graciously allowed us to influence some of their priorities for enhancements to the RTI software as part of the grant work.  We are still discussing some of the ideas, and it’s great fun to work with a group with such enthusiasm and desire to keep things moving forward for the growing community of RTI adopters.

I look forward to great things from this collaboration as it continues.



What’s Happening at Cultural Heritage Imaging by cdschroer
May 15, 2009, 6:49 pm
Filed under: Conferences, Grants, News, Workshops

by Debra

There is so much going on at Cultural Heritage Imaging! In the next couple of weeks, Carla and Mark will attend the American Institute for Conservation’s (AIC) annual meeting and the ARARA conference. At AIC, Carla and Mark along with Philip Klausmeyer from Worcester Art Museum, will present a paper on “Reflectance Transformation Imaging: A New Conservation Tool for Examination and Documentation”. At ARARA, Carla and Mark will give a one-day workshop on Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI).

In June, Cultural Heritage Imaging is giving an on-site 4-day training class on Reflectance Transformation Imaging: Generating Digital Representations of Cultural Heritage Objects to staff members at the National Museum of the American Indian. And then there is the two-day RTI workshop, funded through a NCPTT grant, at the Presidio in July.

And much progress was made on the hardware and software for the IMLS project . But I’ll save those details for a future blog.



NCPTT Grant Award by cdschroer
March 19, 2009, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Grants

I am so excited that we won a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training (NCPTT). The reason this project is so great is that we partnered with an amazing group of people to win the grant. Working with rock art experts, we will create a comprehensive 2-day workshop for 3D digital rock art documentation and preservation. We will also create some web-based training materials that will be available on our partners’ websites and on our website.

Check out http://www.c-h-i.org/ncptt/2008/index.html to read more about this project and our partners.