June 08, 2008


Live blogging the UCLA/Getty Storage Symposium (part 8)

I had lunch with colleagues on a sunny patio. Nice to be back inside an air-conditioned building though :-) Here we go with the next session: Developing Virtual Collections, introduced by Diane Favro (UCLA).

Our first speaker is Ron Street (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York): Molding Reliefs from the Pyramid of Amenemhat I, and 3-Dimensional Imaging for Sculpture Conservation. He is most of his time involved in making commercial replicas but also does scholarly projects. He went to the actual 12th-dynasty pyramid of Amenemhat I (ca. 1970 BC) in Lisht, Egypt. For large items, milling is still the only affordable way of making a facsimile. 3D-imaging produces a better replica however. It was used in the re-reconstruction of the Ur-Nammu stele to create a virtual model that allowed to improve upon the original reconstruction from the early 20th cent. It's not back in the galleries yet. He shows other projects, emphasizing that the hand of a skilled artist is still needed to do the ultimate retouching and finishing of a facsimile.

Next is Jean-Angelo Beraldin (NRC Institute for Information Technology, Canada) focuses on 3D scanning, modeling and processing. The patented technology that the Visual Information Technology Group developed is even used by NASA. He shows a video giving a brief overview of cultural-heritage applications of their 3D expertise. There are 3 acquisition methods: triangulation, time of flight, inferometry. Using 3D data and modeling software is not easy to use, the experience of the scanner matters. Color is added either by measuring reflectivity or by draping photos over the 3D model. Technologies are comercially available but mostly for manufacturing and infrastructure industries. A business model is still missing for cultural heritage applications.

Kandace Pansire (UCLA) speaks on The Difficulties of Preserving Spatial Context: Karanis, tourism and the olive oil industry. Ancient Karanis (modern Kom Aushim, in the Fayum oasis) yielded a large amount of papyri. The local sebakhin used the mudbrick for fertilizer and even put in a small railroad for transport. Consequently, a lot of the site is just destroyed, gone. Also, the architectural remains exposed by the old University of Michigan expedition in the 1920s-1930s have since decayed substantially. The new archaeological project is a collaboration of UCLA and the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (The Netherlands). She surveyed the area and found olive grinding stones, presses and settling vats. It is hard to ascertain often whether they are still in their original location. This a tourist site, tourists pick up stuff and drop it elsewhere. A road is lined with olive presses, probably not placed there in antiquity. She is trying to preserve the spatial context using GIS and virtual modeling. The project doesn't have the finances to use better technologies.


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