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

Japanese woodblock prints and RTI by marlinlum

By Guest Blogger:

Susan Grinols, FAMSF, Director of Photo Services and Imaging

You wouldn’t necessarily think you needed anything but your own eyes to appreciate the details of a Japanese woodblock print. After all, how much texture is there in a thin piece of paper? It turns out – quite a bit. While working with CHI on the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Grant we proved to ourselves that RTI is adept at revealing hidden textures in these artworks. We did this by photographing one of our Hirosada woodblock prints:

Konishi Hirosada woodblock print

Konishi Hirosada woodblock print

  • Konishi Hirosada, Japanese active 1819-1864
  • The Osaka Actor Mimasu Daigorō IV as Kan Shōjō in the Play “Sugawara denju tenarai kagami” at the Naka Theater
  • 1851
  • Color woodcut with metallic pigments, “lacquer,” and embossing
  • Image: 24.5 x 18.8 cm (9 5/8 x 7 3/8 in.)
  • Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund, 1976.1.359

We were amazed to see that the woodblock carver accentuated the actor’s expression in this print through embossing. He also produced subtle and not so subtle textures in the actor’s kimono. These details really come out with RTI.

Konishi Hirosada Woodblock print

Normal / Specular viewing

When exhibiting our prints we frame them behind plexiglas and limit their exposure to damaging light by keeping the light levels low. This combination sometimes makes it difficult for people to see all of the artwork’s subtle textures.

To give our visitors a richer experience of the Hirosada print we decided to include its PTM in the galleries while the artwork was on display in our exhibition Japanesque.

Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to get the RTI viewer onto a kiosk before Japanesque’s opening so we decided to make a movie of the Hirosada PTM using Screen Flow and iMovie. BTW, a BIG THANK YOU goes out to the CHI team for the beautiful imagery we used in the movie, and also to Michael Ashley for his technical movie making expertise, and to Mark Mudge and Carla Schroer for their help in writing the gallery label.

The end result is a short movie with detailed imagery of the artwork. The best part is that the movie is being displayed on a 46” flat panel screen with the artwork hung close by, making it convenient for our visitors to compare the RTI results with the actual artwork.

Woodblock prints are the result of collaboration between the artist, the carver and the printer. Using RTI technology, our visitors are able to get a real appreciation for their artistry.

CHI @ MoMA by marlinlum
July 23, 2010, 11:06 pm
Filed under: On Location, Training | Tags: , , , ,

By Elizabeth Peña

Last week, the CHI team headed to the Big Apple to deliver a custom-built lighting array to the Museum of Modern Art Conservation Department, and to conduct a 4-day training session with MoMA conservators and guests. It was wonderful to work with such an accomplished, collegial group whose insights inspired us every step of the way. By the end of the week, the group had accomplished RTI’s ranging from a Jeff Koons basketball to a Brancusi sculpture, as well as paintings by Gottlieb and Gorky, a Schwitters collage, and several photographs for an important photograph characterization study. Many thanks to Jim Coddington and everyone at MoMA for their generous hospitality. We look forward to continuing to work with the MoMA staff as they begin to incorporate RTI into their work.


Clockwise from left: Linda Zycherman, Corey Toler-Franklin (Princeton), Mark Mudge (CHI), Szymon Rusinkeiwicz (Princeton), Carla Schroer (CHI), Rick Johnson (Cornell), Marlin Lum (CHI), Mary McGinn (Winterthur), Chris McGlinchy, Robert Kastler, Paul Messier (Paul Messier LLC), Dan Kushel (Buffalo State), Michael Duffy, Lee Ann Daffner, Jim Coddington. Not pictured: Scott Gerson, Ana Martins, Cindy Albertson, Elizabeth Peña (CHI)