Cultural Heritage Imaging


Imaging Paper Squeezes With RTI at the Smithsonian by cwillen

By Guest Blogger E. Keats Webb

I mentioned briefly last month some of the objects that we have been using Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) on here at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI).  One project involved paper “squeezes,” paper pulp molds made from the surfaces of ancient monuments at archaeological sites.

In some cases these “squeezes” are primary resources containing rare intellectual and physical information from monuments that have deteriorated or sites that no longer exist.  Unfortunately, the fragility of the paper minimizes accessibility of these objects to researchers and scholars. This makes them great candidates for non-destructive documentation of the 3-D characteristics of their surfaces with the RTI method.

Senior Conservator, Melvin Wachowiak, and I worked with the conservators from a Smithsonian museum, imaging a couple of examples of paper squeezes to see what the RTI method might contribute in terms of preservation and research.

Since the squeezes are molds taken from stone inscriptions, the writing is reversed.  After the image acquisition we “flipped” the images using imaging software, and then processed the files so that the final RTI product could be a legible rectified document for researchers to study.

We found that the RTI method increases legibility through the combination of raking light features and the specular enhancement option while also creating a surrogate that can be more extensively “handled” by researchers and scholars. (See images below.)

We continue to use RTI on a daily basis and look forward to sharing more with you about how the method is helping the scientists and conservators within MCI and the Smithsonian for the research and preservation of the collections.

paper_normal_lite

Detail of Paper Squeeze with Normal Light Position

 

Paper with raking light

Detail of Paper Squeeze with Raking Light

 

Paper with specular enhancement

Detail of Paper Squeeze with Specular Enhancement



RTI @ the Museum Conservation Institute by cdschroer

By Guest Blogger  E. Keats Webb

Over the past three months I have been interning with Senior Conservator, Melvin Wachowiak, at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) exploring advanced imaging techniques for research and preservation of the collections focusing mostly on the Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) method.  We started in September with an African leather shoulder bag, the RTI enhancing the faint tooling and degradation on the surface. In October we imaged a writing slate from the 1600s found in an archeological excavation of a well at the site of Jamestown, Virginia.  RTI proved an excellent tool in interpreting the drawings and writings that are found on both surfaces of the slate and at all orientations.  Other types of objects that we have explored include paper “squeezes” (molds taken from stone inscriptions), oil paintings, a jawbone, ebony and ivory inlaid cabinet doors and a daguerreotype.  We work alongside scientists and conservators on a daily basis at the Museum Conservation Institute, and RTI complements the studies happening within our labs along with other advanced imaging techniques used for research and preservation.

Set-up for the RTI of the Jamestown Slate.

E. Keats Webb left, Melvin Wachowiak right; Photo: Charles Durfor



On Location with an Anthropoid Coffin and the FAMSF RTI Capture Team by marlinlum
FAMSF_RTI_group_shot

Susan Grinols and her RTI capture team document an Anthropoid Coffin

In October 2009, Susan Grinols – Director of Photo Services and Imaging for Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), assembled a team of scholars and imaging professionals to document an Anthropoid Coffin with the highlight RTI technique.

Sue and her team  members were thrilled with the final results. Using the RTI Viewer, suddenly, hard to decipher glyphs were clearer and easier to view. The curators, interpreters and conservators were shocked at how the RTI technology delivered so much detail, in a completely nondestructive manner.

For a brief look into the RTI capture session be sure to view the flickr gallery.



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.



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.