Vol. VII, No. 4

February, 1995

Imaging The Past

by Susan S. Lukesh
Hofstra University

Imaging the Past: Electronic Imaging and Computer Graphics in Museums and Archaeology was a British Museum sponsored conference held November 3 to November 5, 1994. Well over one hundred people attended the three days of papers and demonstrations which covered a wide range of topics. In addition to the session titles, a couple of interesting topics are noted here. A bound copy of the abstracts of the papers was available to all attendees and as of this month, there are plans to publish the papers quickly so that the work, much still in progress, will be available to others.


Imaging and Artefacts 1: Image Processing and Conservation

Topics ranged from "Development of On-site Digital Imaging System for Site Documentation" (Eric Lange, The Getty Conservation Institute) to "Analysis of Colour Change During the Cleaning of Paintings and the Development of a Model for Predicting Appearance" (Helene Chahine et alia, National Gallery and Birkbeck College).

Imaging and Archaeology 1: Methodology and Analysis

Topics in this session ranged from "Three-Dimensional Archaeologically Oriented Data Capture of Photogrammetric Techniques" (R.M. Littleworth and S. Robson, City University) to "Photo-Realistic Graphics for Visualizing Archaeological Site Reconstructions" (Alan Chalmers and Simon Stoddart, University of Bristol) and "Computer Based Visualization of the past: Technical Realism and Historical Credibility" (Nick Ryan, University of Canterbury). These last presentations opened a subject which was heatedly discussed: that is, the issue of photo-realism versus a clear model or technical realism.

Multimedia and Education

Topics in this session ranged from "Museum 2000. A Dynamic Propsect" (Patrick Purcell, University of Ulster) to "Interactive Multimedia for the Public Presentation of Archaeology: The Euesperides Project" (Maria Economou, Linacre College, Oxford) to "Archaeology's New Language: Multimedia" (Seamus Ross, British Academy).

Imaging and Artefacts 2: Analytical Techniques and 3d Modeling

Topics in this session, specifically oriented to artefacts, ranged from "Detection and Interpretation of Preferred Orientation in Ceramic Thin Sections" (Ian K. Whitbread, Fitch Laboratory, British School in Athens) to "Three-Dimensional Modelling for Museum and Archaeological Applications" (Rejean Baribeau, Canadian Conservation Institute, and Guy Godin, National Research Council, Canada). This last subject was also part of the demonstrations where Baribeau was able to show the laser range sensor system which he and Godin have been developing for a number of years. Here the 3-d shape and color of the object were captured which offers the prospect of visualizing objects with the flexibility we have with real objects.

Imaging and Archaeology 2: GIS and 3D Modeling

Topics in this last session ranged from "Archaeology as Computer Visualization - Virtual Tours of Dudley Castle c. 1550." (Colin Johnson, Image Interactive, and Peter Bolad, Dudley Metropolitan Borough) to "Computed Tomography Imaging of Seated Clay Cuneiform Tablets" (Nachum Appelbaum et alia, Hebrew University and Haddassah University Hospital) to "3D Reconstruction of an Ancient Egyptian Mummy" (Stephen Hughes, St. Thomas Hospital). These last two papers highlighted the detailed information which can be gained by non-destructive techniques. In the first instance, it was possible to read the cuneiform tablet without opening and destroying the envelope in which it was contained. In the second instance, the reconstruction demonstrated many features of the embalming techniques and funerary customs, and the scanning facilitated study of the teeth whose wear patterns and incomplete formation suggest an age of 20 years old for the Egyptian priestess.

In addition to the five sessions of papers presented, one afternoon was devoted to posters and demonstrations. The latter were held in the Research Laboraory of the Museum and offered attendees opportunities to see and interact with the software and speak with the developers of the fifteen systems which were available. A number of these demonstrations had related talks or posters.

The conference covered an enormous amount of ground and showed the variety of image processing currently underway for museums and for archaeology. The publication will offer this same snapshot of current research and possibilities to those who were unable to attend the conference. When the publication becomes available, there will be an announcement in the CSA Newsletter.

The next article also deals with issues of electronic media. For other Newsletter articles concerning the use of electronic media in the humanities, consult the Subject index.

Next Article: Hammers and Nails

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