For some time now it has been evident that the academic community are becoming more involved in the improvement of information on Wikipedia and see it as a means of disseminating open scholarly information. For example take a look at this oii project.
Jisc has,over the last decade, worked closely with many institutions to develop rich content for teaching, learning and research but also to develop digital infrastructure, promote standards and improve the use of technology in learning. We are now delighted to offer the opportunity for academics to become involved in improving information relating to these activities. Please find Jisc’s ITT for the Wikimedian Ambassador residency here.
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The BT Archive is held, with limited public access, in central London and is by any standard a collection of national and international importance, recognised by UNESCO. This large and remarkable collection details the history of Britain’s leading role in the development of telecommunications and the impact of this technology on society.
With Jisc funding, the New Connections project, a partnership between the University of Coventry, BT Archives and The National Archives, has catalogued, digitised and developed a searchable online archive of almost half a million photographs, images, documents and correspondence assembled by BT and its predecessors over 165 years.
The project team has organised two free events for people to find out more about the project and the forthcoming online collection:
You’ll find out about the story behind the project, how you can view, access and utilise these uniquely important historical records, and how academics have been working with the material to create case studies on linguistics, problem-based learning scenarios and design to enhance the learning experience of users.
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Two reports have recently been published as the outcome of surveys on special collections within research libraries in the UK and the US. Here are some highlights from the findings.
OCLC and RLUK’s Survey of Special Collections and Archives in the UK and Ireland grapples with many of the issues inherent in the management of special collections, ranging from human resources and skills, cataloguing and metadata, outreach, born-digital material and digitisation.
“Perceived pressure to digitise collections comprehensively seems to be ubiquitous” says the RLUK report, and “users expect everything in libraries and archives to be digitised.”
Ithaka S+R’s Appraising our Digital Investment: Sustainability of Digitized Special Collections in ARL Libraries takes up the story where the RLUK study leaves off, and concentrates specifically on the post-digitisation scenario and how academic research libraries are dealing with the sustainability of digitised special collections.
The two studies make an interesting read, as they are complementary in a number of ways:
1) Special collections are recognized as strategically important to institutions: the RLUK report highlights how special collections and archives “play a key role in differentiating each institution from its peers”. This is also echoed by Ithaka’s findings, “over 80% [of respondents] agreed that digitized special collections are critical to our current strategic direction”.
2) Users, however, are not that well served: while RLUK libraries have seen an increase in the number of users of special collections, not much is known about who these users are, which inhibits the potential for impact of those collections. In fact, the ability to do “outreach” activities is seen as one of the most challenging areas for libraries. Along the same lines, Ithaka’s report found that once collections have been digitised, little investment is made in understanding the needs of audiences: 43% of libraries gather analytics, but far less conduct any qualitative research, although this is usually recognised as more useful than just monitoring web analytics.
3) Funding is still the main issue: only 20% of RLUK libraries have a recurring budget for digitisation, while 40% can undertake projects only with special funding, suggesting that while libraries may be able to fund small-scale activity internally, they often require external funding for large projects. On the other hand, the Ithaka study revealed that “Libraries are spending far more in creating new resources than in enhancing current ones”, a situation that is likely to be similar in the UK. So while it is difficult to find funding for large scale digitisation, it is equally problematic to identify support for enhancement and development of existing digital resources.
4) Sustainability of digitised collections still relies on fairly traditional models: the host institution is principally responsible for this. However, it is able to set aside only limited resources for enhancement and development. The Ithaka study confirms that when institutions engage in successful revenue generation activities (mainly through licencing of content or print on demand), the actual gain made is only on average 21% of the total cost of maintaining the collection in the previous year, and the median only 10%, so a very modest gain, possibly seen as not worth the hassle.
The RLUK study recommends a collective approach to digitisation and sustainability of digitised content which includes:
“…the development of a national strategy for continued digitisation of special collections … sustainable funding strategies and international partners with which to collaborate”, and the “development of cost-effective models for large-scale digitisation of special collections…”
What would this strategy look like? And what models could support it? A few days ago I came across Reveal Digital’s cost recovery=open access model, an approach to large scale digitisation of special collections based on participating libraries subscribing to a collection on a cost recovery basis. Once the cost of producing the digitsed collection has been covered, the collection is made available on open access. Definitely a model worth considering.
The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) has commissioned an independent assessment of the Reveal Digital model highlighting, however, some of the potential risks with this approach.
Reveal Digital is trialling its approach with Independent Voices, an archive of about 1m pages from journals and magazines of the independent press, and is inviting libraries to register their interest in subscribing to this collection over the next six months, so let’s watch this space.
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The development of image matching functionality for the Bodleian Library’s Integrated Broadside Ballad Archive is one of those innovations which arise during a Jisc Programme. Often we do not make too much of these innovations. Perhaps we think that they are par for the course; a natural consequence of being involved in innovative programmes of work. Such an attitude can negate opportunities for enhancing impact far beyond the outputs of a project.
People tend not to be interested in tools, unless they are directly useful to the work in hand, or have been developed for very specific purposes, but tools, though practical, might also change our perceptions of the world or how we think about a particular practice. This is the change we seek when we foster innovation.
The Broadside Ballad project, working in collaboration with the Engineering Science Department of the University of Oxford, has developed something which could have profound effects on image research. Giles Bergel of the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford initially acted as Project Manager for the Ballads project. Here he, together with Andrew Zisserman and Relja Arandjelovic, presents the potential that Image Match offers for enhanced bibliographies and for new scholarship in the Arts and Humanities.
Of course developing a tool is only the first step, disseminating it for use is then requisite to allow take-up by others outside the institution where it originated, hopefully leading to onward development for new purposes. That is why an early version of the engine is already open-sourced here
The current programme will naturally lead to a number of innovations and these will be highlighted here over the next few months as two programme strands draw to a close and there is the final push of the mass digitisation projects to produce some very exiting digital resources.
The Integrated Broadside Ballad Archive will launch on 23 February at the English Folk and Dance Society (EFDS). More details can be found here.
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Today Jisc and Ithaka S+R are launching “Sustaining Our Digital Future: Institutional Strategies for Digital Content”, a new report aimed at helping digital projects to thrive.
This report, which provides a close look at three institutions (UCL, Imperial War Museums and the National Library of Wales) in the United Kingdom confirms:
• How fragmented the digital landscape is at universities and within other organizations
• How there are examples of good practice within and outside higher education that all can learn from but that greater co-ordination is required to deliver this at a UK level
• How little the topic of post-build sustainability comes up at the higher levels of administration
• How risk is present within the current system, concerning the sustainability of digital content.
“It’s a wakeup call for us all,” said Andrew Green, chief executive and librarian at the National Library of Wales. “It’s essential reading for anyone in the business of access to digital content.”
The report, complete with effective recommendations includes a Sustainability Health Check Tool for Digital Content Projects, which helps people to ascertain what tools or resources projects could use to be even more successful.
With funding from the Jisc-led Strategic Content Alliance (SCA) in the United Kingdom, the Canadian Heritage Information Network, and the National Endowment for the Humanities in the United States, Ithaka S+R is conducting a multi-year research program to shed light on common challenges associated with sustaining digital projects beyond implementation and provide guidance and tools to help administrators, project leaders, librarians, and funders ensure that projects continue to grow. This report is the first in the series.
For more on sustainability and related issues, go to the SCA blog.
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Guest post from John Hindmarch, a PHD candidate at UCL’s Department of Engineering, reporting on 3D Scanning: Three-dimensional Artefacts from the Past, for the Future, held in Cambridge on 10 and 11 December 2012.
Every time I attend a conference – or any meeting of those involved with cultural heritage and scanning, I’m always impressed by the sheer variety of people involved and range of projects on view. The recent 3D Digitisation conference in Cambridge was no different: over the two days of the symposium we saw a diverse array of objects scanned and digitally reconstructed: a 16th century tomb, a 10,000 bce monument and fossils formed millions of years in the past and, astonishingly, a 3D model of a Martian dust avalanche. Fragments of ancient architecture, scattered amongst institutions all around the globe, have been reunited (virtually, at least) for the first time in hundreds of years, while entire buildings unseen for centuries have been brought back to life. With input from art historians, engineers, cultural heritage professionals, computer – and even space – scientists, the conference was testament to the extraordinary breadth of applications of 3D scanning and reconstruction technologies.
But what quickly becomes apparent is that the process of creating 3D models, along with the often bewildering array of technologies that can be used to do so, are no panacea, but simply another set of tools in the cultural heritage professional’s armoury. As many of the projects in this symposium clearly demonstrated, digitising a 3D object is not a trivial activity and can require considerable expertise as well as a large and expensive investment in both equipment and time. Therefore, the creation of 3D models – despite the temptations that these amazing technologies may place in front of us – should not be seen as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. Again, this conference was full of great examples of 3D digitisation being used in a purposeful and constructive way; to test hypotheses, refute previous claims and support new theories. Anna Thirion’s work on a French tribune used laser scanning to put forward a brand new (and convincing) theory as to its original construction, while the Leicester team’s fascinating work investigating the construction and history of the Howard tombs showed the potential of new technology to answer questions about the past. That, thanks to the work of Paul Bryan and his team, we can still be finding out new things about a monument as well known and well documented as Stonehenge again illustrates the possibilities. These and many other examples from the symposium show the power that this new technology has to aid academics and researchers in the cultural heritage sphere.
But of course, cultural heritage institutions tend to have two distinct remits; the preservation of, and research into, their collections, but at the same time they are also required to make these collections available to the public, and indeed, disseminate their knowledge and research. My particular research area involves the latter, specifically, how museums might use these new 3D technologies to better engage with the public and improve the accessibility of their collections. Thus many of the projects on show were of particular interest to me. Whether it’s putting Sheffield Museum’s collection of silverware online (and I am still in awe of Marcos and Mariza’s work in scanning such ‘uncooperative’ shiny metal objects), allowing the public to examine Santa Maria de Ripoll’s Romanesque portals close-up and in unprecedented detail or, in the case of the Howard tombs, combining laser scanning and 3D printing to allow the public to physically experience the puzzle of the tombs’ construction (and simultaneously conveying something of the academic process), the possibilities opened up by these new techniques is clear. Sometimes I think (with tongue firmly in cheek) that this technology is far too important to waste on academics; that it has the potential to fundamentally change the way the public experiences and relates to museum objects – but perhaps that is getting ahead of ourselves. First we should see what people come up with next year…
Finally, I would like to thank everyone at the conference for a fascinating two days, and particularly Phillip Lindley for organising the event.
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Guest post from Sarah Younan, a PHD candidate at Cardiff School of Art and Design, reporting on 3D Scanning: Three-dimensional Artefacts from the Past, for the Future, held in Cambridge on 10 and 11 December 2012
3D SCANNING FROM THE PAST FOR THE FUTURE
(image courtesy of Sarah Younan)
This symposium brought together attendants and speakers from various backgrounds; scientists, art historians, conservators, historians and archaeologists, to name but a few. My own background is in art and museum intervention. This will naturally be reflected back in my writing. My primary focus is on questions of representation and meaning and a little less on technical aspects and questions of data format, matters of copyright and archiving.
Representation of artefacts is pre-requisite to their documentation and classification. Technological innovations from print to photography, digital imaging and now 3D scanning have led to great shifts, bringing wider accessibility and greater objectivity to the visual documentation of objects. The reproduction of historical artefacts has been common practice since the 18th century, through casting and, later, electrotyping. 3D scanning and rapid prototyping now allow for 3D copies to be produced without surface contact and minimal risk of damage to the original. Virtual reproductions do not deteriorate, can be widely accessed via the internet and bring new opportunities in education, documentation, display and research. The deterioration of the original object can be assessed against the 3D scan and digital copies can be ‘handled’, deconstructed and used to test restoration and hypothetical reconstructions. 3D data can also be used to record historic objects and heritage sites and create immersive environments. 3D images can to some extent be created from old photographic material and so digitally reconstruct lost objects. The Bamiyan stone Buddhas give a poignant example of this digital ‘bringing back to live’ through photogrammetric reconstruction.
The 3D scanning of historical objects throws up new questions and poses new challenges. The production of precise scans is a craft in itself. Different solutions have to be found for challenging surfaces and scales. Examples given by the speakers ranged from custom-built tables and abseiling scanners to methods of scanning highly reflective surfaces, textured objects, Stonehenge and dust clouds on Mars. A variety of strategies and technologies are used to rise to these challenges. The need to share these and ensure that knowledge gained from individual projects is not lost to the community was pointed out. Post-scan production tends to take more time than the actual gathering of data. At this level another great challenge is posed by the lack of standards in data format and archiving. JISC hopes to instigate such a standard of best practice that will aid multidisciplinary projects and the preservation and sharing of data.
Scanning technologies are rapidly evolving. The physical properties of objects can be estimated from laser data and advances in rapid prototyping mean that it will soon be possible to print true-to-material reproductions of objects. 3D printers that employ laser sintering already make this possible for gold, silver and other metals. Multidisciplinary projects such as ‘Representing Re-formation‘ bring together Science and Heritage in collaborations from which all parties involved benefit.
Digital representations and reproductions of objects include appearance, form and scale and are soon likely to include physical properties and function. Would such reproductions be perceived as perfect copies or fakes? Scanning can be seen as an objective method of documentation, but a certain subjectivity can not be avoided in the post-production of scans and the hypothetical reconstruction of objects. Digital anastilosis presents a historical best guess, no matter how meticulous the research. When 3D reconstructions are presented to viewers online, through film or as environments how important is it to point out this element of uncertainty? Can modern audiences be expected to understand that digitized objects are a form of interpretation? Viewers are likely to have some experience of 3D artwork through animated films and gaming and aware of the highly edited content of most images they see on a daily basis. I feel there is a definite need for qualitative research here and, as David Arnold pointed out, a need to establish provenance of data and develop a ‘semantic of form’.
At the end of our round table discussion Christian Mortensen pointed out that curators must start dealing with these digital models. I would like to add that artists have an equally important role to play in investigating digital artefacts and their perception. 3D technologies have the capacity to play an inherent part in the heritage sector. As well as bringing numerous benefits to the collection, documentation, safe guarding and presentation of objects 3D technologies can provide personal and meaningful connections to viewers. New technologies allow for the digital expansion of the museum as a social instrument and a discursive space, enabling an unprecedented dialogue with the viewer.
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Guest post, from Seana Farrington a PHD candidate at University College Cork, reporting on 3D Scanning: Three-dimensional Artefacts from the Past, for the Future, held in Cambridge on 10 adn 11 December 2012
Representing Reformation: 3D Scanning and Documentation Conference: Day 1
This two day conference convened by Phillip Lindley (University of Leicester) was primarily focussed on the use of 3D scanning in diverse projects undertaken in the fields of History, Art History and Archaeology.
As a first year Ph.D candidate in University College Cork’s DAH programme my interest was immediately peaked when the conference announcement arrived in my Inbox from the H-ArtHist subscription service. My Ph.D application proposes an interrogation of the Bantry Papers archive housed in UCC’s Boole Library, with outcomes strongly based on engaging with digital technology, for example a re-creation of the second Earl of Bantry’s art collection, now dispersed, to be housed in a virtual and interactive environment.
I made contact with Conny Bailey who was wonderfully helpful, and feeling reassured that attendance at this conference was a must I submitted an application for a fully funded student place. It was my intention to attend the conference regardless of the outcome, but I was absolutely delighted to be awarded a place, and wish to thank Phillip Lindley for a great opportunity and JISC for funding it. Peter Findlay represented JISC at the conference.
The first day of the conference is now over and I have to say I am overwhelmed (in a good way) with the projects and papers that formed our first day’s fare. Inter- and trans- disciplinarities seem to be in the air everywhere, as readers of my first post regarding The Experience of Illness symposium will be aware, and this day’s papers certainly highlighted cross discipline practice.
From Phillip Lindley’s welcoming address to the final speaker, of the day, Jack Hinton, everyone demonstrated how the use of digital technology had broadened their interaction with their chosen material and enabled comparative studies that would have been impossible without the use of advanced scanning and software applications and knowledge.
Phillip led the way suggesting that we avoid the negativism of C. P. Snow (a name with which I had only just become familiar!) and take our lead instead from William Cheselden and his Osteographia (1733), as a “fruitful model of collaboration” and “interesting model of the use of mechanical means by artists to represent complex three dimensional objects”. The picture does indeed replace a thousand words and sometimes is the only means of describing intricacies that language fails to capture. Phillip’s paper ‘Representing Re-Formation: the search for objectivity’ went on to show that, in turn, what the picture fails to deliver can be provided by 3D scanning. 3D scanning allows the researcher to postulate different reconstructions and can be used to test the accuracy of 2D reconstructions. The greater subjectivity of traditional manual draughtsmanship was demonstrated by the PhD student, Nishad Karim’s (Representing Re-Formation) computer aided modelling based on a drawn image.
Two points that particularly interested me was that the plan of dissemination to a wider audience was to be based on “conveying uncertainty and complexity rather than [to] convey a simple narrative” and the opportunity for researchers to “attempt to ‘reconstruct’ what was never carried out” in this case due to the Reformation. Thirdly, the construction of a highly accurate 3D scanned record will provide invaluable data to future researchers.
Audience Question: Value
Phillip responded to this by highlighting the use of 3D reconstructions to show elements that don’t fit due to complexity and fallibility of human draughtsmanship, along-with the ‘permanent’ storage of data for the use of future scholars and the enablement of many different reconstructions. To that I suggest that the possibility of greater access by the general public to objects residing in sites that may be geographically distant from them is another addition of value.
A break for lunch and then the first of the afternoon’s speakers, Anna Thirion (University Montepelier 3) presented ‘Proposal for a digital reconstruction of the Romanesque ‘tribune’ of Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa (France): methodological considerations’. Anna’s paper was a tour de force of what a single scholar can manage and achieve. Her thesis is about the anastylosis of the aforementioned tribune. One of Anna’s outcomes is the presentation of findings from the investigator to the public and the importance of conveying the hypothetical nature of any model achieved and to make transparent the processes of reconstruction.
Laura Bartolome Roviras (Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya) spoke on her joint project with Manuel Castineiras on the Romanesque Portals of Santa Maria de Ripoll, Santiago de Compostela and Sant Pere de Rodes: from modelling to reconstruction’. She explained how the use of digital technology made possible access to scattered documentary sources, and to carved elements that have been removed and are now in various collections throughout Europe and America. The researcher’s goals are to provide excellent opportunities for research through high resolution tools and create a true repository of reconstructed information such as chronology, iconography and relationships, while providing web pages with enhanced information through text, additional images and early photography that will give extra information on iconographical series.
Audience Question: What evidence is being used for the reconstructions?
Textual evidence is one form of evidence, but any reconstruction remains highly hypothetical.
Coming up to tea time Annemarie La Pensee (National Museums Liverpool) outlined some of the projects undertaken by the Conservation Technologies team in ‘The non-contact 3D laser scanning of cultural artefacts and its applications at Conservation Technologies, National Museums Liverpool’. The main question posed was a simple why. Some key concepts were: change; conservation; preservation of vulnerable objects; exploration of tool marking; subjectivity, to understand it, minimize it and document it. A concern for the team is accuracy which is aided in turn by understanding the role of operator influence in scanning objects. A neat phrase that Annemarie used to describe their work with artists was of providing “a new chisel in the sculptor’s tool set”.
Audience Question: Concerns about authenticity when reconstructing or making replicas.
Annemarie described the protocols in place to ensure that any possibility of mistaking a replica for an original was most unlikely. These include thorough documentation of the work, use of materials contemporary with the creation of the replica and changes in scale. She also discussed ethics, copyright and issues around data storage.
In one of those moments of serendipity, perhaps in this instance slightly engineered, the next speaker, Marcos A Rodrigues (Sheffield Hallam University) spoke more fully on the challenges of “uncooperative materials”, touched on in Annemarie’s paper, in ‘3D Scanning of Highly Reflective Surfaces: Issues on Scanning the Museums Sheffield Metalwork Collection’. Marcos spoke from a computer science perspective rather than that of the arts and humanities. He too picked up on issues of copyright and described how this could be navigated through the use of different resolution models. He also explained the difficulties of transferring the work to the web and the need for compression of up to 99.7% of the data collected during the scanning process. Marcos also spoke about the need for compatible standards and the difficulties in prediction of platforms. The importance of keeping the full resolution model was also stressed, as this should be made available by request to users who require greater visuality.
Audience Question: Regarding the materiality and utility of many of the objects chosen for scanning: how was this expressed?
Marcos responded that items with removable lids, for example, have been scanned closed and open, with and without the lid in place. However, it was not possible to allow the webpage user to interact with the object in such a way that they could open and close a lidded item.
In George W Fraser’s ‘Scanning in Space and Time’ we were treated to a truly interdisciplinary paper from a physicist whose day job is developing equipment and instrumentation for ‘probes’ (if that’s the right word) to Mars and Mercury. He demonstrated the diversity of his interests and how arts and humanities scholars can use tools developed for imaging in space to explore the materiality of objects in virtual environments. He also touched on the dangers of outgassing from replicas to original items in collections and the difficulties of incompatibility when transferring data from high cost to low cost systems. Similarly to Marcos’s paper George also talked about the decimation of data (up to 99.9%), but in relation to the aforesaid differences in compatibility, which meant that that data was permanently lost. This provoked some concerns from the audience.
Audience Questions: Did you compare raw data from the two different scanner levels? How can you compare if you decimate data collection results?
George responded that the two sets of data were not compared and my understanding was that the project did not lose an opportunity to add value by this decimation. I am sure that this lively discussion was continued over dinner.
On the graveyard shift, as it were, was Jack Hinton (Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art) with ‘Measuring Genius: 3D scanning and Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Portraits of Benjamin Franklin’. Jack brought us back to the world of art history describing the comparative investigation of Houdon’s busts of Franklin. Jack highlighted the importance of collaborative effort in studies of this nature, including the use of extra-institutional services to provide expertise and equipment that would otherwise render such an endeavour too costly. The work undertaken offered new suggestions about Houdon’s studio practice and how the original bust related to later versions; however some questions remain unanswered.
Audience Question: What is the legacy of the project?
The project was devised as a means of understanding the relationship of the four portrait busts to each other and as a model of Houdon’s studio practice. Issues of legacy had not been raised. Delegates suggested that the data captured during the scanning process could be used to create an interactive virtual exhibit.
Themes that recurred over the day were:
Ruin and fragment
Mediation [to the non-specialist public]
Representing Reformation: 3D Scanning and Documentation Conference: Day 2
We were welcomed on the second day by Ross Parry (University of Leicester) who spoke briefly about the previous day’s proceedings and outlined the day’s theme ‘Wider 3D scanning & digitisation projects,’ he also introduced each of the speakers in turn.
So, with the day over, and the conference at an end there must come time for reflection and thinking about the variety of topics presented. In Day 2’s papers there was an emphasis on the mechanics of using and applying a variety of technologies to the speakers’ projects. For that reason, I too am changing the format of this blog from Day 1. Readers will notice that I have not included audience questions, this is because the technical nature of query and response was, to be honest, rather over my head so, what I will give here are synopses of the speakers’ papers as they struck me.
First up was Mike Howe (British Geological Survey) with ‘Laser scanning 563 million years of evolution: the JISC GB/3D type fossils online project’. Mike started by explaining to us lay-people what type fossils are and gave us a bit of history on how they had been catalogued and displayed. The historical practice had been to provide specimens to the Geological Society on publication of a paper in their journal. This created a huge body of specimens that required housing, care and display. Unfortunately, the Geological Society made a decision to choose its library over its museum and the collection was dispersed.
Currently there are three databases for type specimens: the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff; the Natural History Museum, University of Oxford; and the Geological Survey, Type Specimens. A proposal was submitted to JISC to work with partner institutions and local museums countrywide to create a single British database of type fossils. A side-effect of the project has been the re-assessment of type fossils, leading to changes of classification. A core element of the project is to make the database freely accessible to the public with an interactive element to aid online research.
Mike highlighted the requirement that research needs to be of use and value and posited that the best measure of impact is reuse of raw data. This idea of value was one carried forward from the previous day and was a recurring theme in the papers to follow. If you wish to see more of Mike’s work, follow the project blog.
Andrew Wilson (University of Bradford) followed with ‘3D Bones – Digital documentation of skeletal remains’. In this fascinating paper Andrew stressed documentation as a prime interest and goal of this JISC funded project. The fragility of the most requested specimens mirrors arts and humanities concerns about the potential of damage to vulnerable and unique objects. In Andrew’s field, palaeopathology of human osteology the specimens are just as irreplaceable as the individual work of art, as these bones show the unchecked progress of disease, which would be unavailable through modern samples due to advances in treatment protocols that alter disease progression, even if they cannot always halt or reverse it.
Handling of human remains is preferable to teaching through models that tend to even out and obscure natural variation, but this handling causes immense damage to samples and as iterated above, it is often the most fragile items that are most frequently requested.
3D scanning is also invaluable at sites where sensitivity demands that finds be re-interred. In an echo of Annemarie and Marco’s difficulties with uncooperative materials, Andrew explained that bones too can be uncooperative due to their inherent porosity. A further difficulty in scanning is that lasers do not have the subtlety to differentiate pathological holes from surface topography. The project team’s two artists provide the missing subtlety through colouring and texturing. It can take anything from 15 – 100 photographs to work out the texturing on a single bone, bringing out the labour intensive nature of the work, which likewise was a shared theme in many papers.
With complexity and detail as driving factors every scan has to be re-checked. This is done collaboratively by the project’s clinician. Andrew passed his iPad amongst the delegates so that we could experience at first hand the quality and interactive capabilities of the finished product. The 3D scans are being used for teaching in Bradfield University and have received highly positive feedback from students, comparing them favourably with actual specimens and above photographic reproductions in standard text books. Read the project blog here.
In a witty segue we went from bones to stones as Paul Bryan (English Heritage) took us on a tour of recent work at Stonehenge. He showed how the use of digital technology can create findings that exceed expectations, for example in how the stones were worked and the uncovering of prehistoric carvings that are invisible to the naked eye. The data creates a detailed record of the Stones in their current condition, and it will be possible to determine the impact of public access to the Stones at the Solstices, amongst other challenges in conservation.
Re-use of the data with virtual content will enhance the visitor experience when the new Visitors’ Centre opens.
See more here.
Time for an extended coffee break after which we reassembled for David Arnold (Director of Research Initiatives and Dean of Brighton Doctoral College) who spoke about ‘3D documentation: Current Practice and future potential’. A useful web address to go with his paper is: www.3D-COFORM.eu. Working with nineteen partners over four years the goal is to make 3D documentation a practical alternative for Cultural Heritage Institutions. An obstacle to this is the lack of a shared thesaurus/taxonomy/semantics of shape. Another challenge is the exclusion of properties, such as physicality, chemical components and density. These too will require the creation of a standardized descriptive language (in my opinion). The benefits of 3D scanning have been previously expressed, but I will reiterate them. They are: better control of access, diminution of wear and tear, and superior visualization of items that may be too small, intricate or inaccessible for manual handling. See the National Palace Museum of Taiwan’s carved olive stone boat as an example.
Documentation may allow novel analysis, condition monitoring, provide an opportunity to record temporary exhibitions and provide an alternative when items are out on loan. 3D documentation has a role to play in providing provenance for stolen artefacts. David gave us the incredible statistic that one public sculpture goes missing every week in Britain. 3D documentation also offers an alternative route to commercial exploitation through the production of replicas as souvenirs.
A technical detail that at this stage goes over my head, but may be of interest to readers is David’s advocacy of C.CRM as a semantic web approach to documentation, i.e. text and annotation as a better way of navigating through different datasets, as it is used by Museums, Libraries and Archives.
After lunch we had a reversal of order recommencing with Stephen Gray (University of Bristol) and ‘The challenges of using 3D digital tools and methodologies across different research disciplines’. Stephen spoke about JISC support services and their role in democratizing technology. He also addressed the issue to the legal grey area surrounding sharing and publishing 3D content and posed the question: is there a need for a different legal framework? He shared with us projects as diverse as the use of augmented reality in teaching veterinary students and motion capture in choreography and sports.
The final paper was given by Douglas Pritchard (Director of Operations at CyArk Europe and Creative Director at CyArk California). Visually this was certainly the most engaging of papers and I have to admit that I was so enthralled that note taking was suspended, as Doug took us on a tour of the most amazing projects being undertaken to document designated world heritage sites. The focus was on the Scottish Ten project that has been mandated to capture five Scottish sites and five international sites.
As a gauge of just how impressive these projects are, the reader may compare them imaginatively to any extreme sport they are familiar with and multiple that by a factor of a hundred (at least). With Mount Rushmore (USA) and Rani Ki Vav (India) as just two examples you will understand that we are dealing here literally with ‘big data’! I did however pull myself together long enough to record an audience question.
Audience Question: How long is post-processing?
For everyday of scanning there is one to two days of post-processing.
Following Doug’s tour de force presentation we had tea and the round table discussion and summary, chaired by Peter Findlay (JISC).
Some of the themes Peter helped to summarise were:
Other themes of the day:
Impact on the wider society
Teaching and Learning
For a novice in the area of Digital Arts and Humanities, much of the wealth of technical knowledge went over my head, but the openness and collegiate attitude of the organizers, speakers, students and interested persons created an environment full of opportunities to learn. What I took away at a professional level is the sheer complexity of creating a single 3D scan, never mind creating a realistic virtual environment that can be toured by the web user. However complexity is not synonymous with impossibility, as was demonstrated by the variety of projects presented.
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This is the first in a series of posts by PHD candidates, which describe in some detail the proceedings of this a recent conference focused on the benefits and issues of 3D scanning in its multifarious forms. David Errickson is a first year PhD student from Teesside University who attended with support from Jisc.
With the greatest of gratitude towards Jisc, the Science & Heritage Programme of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and Dr. Phillip Lindley, I was able to attend the two day research session,“3D Scanning: Three-dimensional Artefacts From The Past, For Our Future”.
The symposium was located within the magnificent grounds of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. The college includes notable alumni such as Jeremy Paxman and Sir Ian Mckellen.
St Catharine’s College, Cambridge
The symposium brought together a range of professionals, academics and researchers from many disciplines. The aim of the conference was to discuss the previous developments in 3D scanning, their current applications and what the future has in store for this rapidly evolving field.
As Dr Phillip Lindley brilliantly summarized, imaging has evolved throughout a series of paradigm shifts and is now entering its next phase: ‘3D scanning’. Although as Cheselden rightly said in his book ‘Osteographia’, ‘one view of an actual object is better than any description’, however 3D scanning allows the creation of 3D forms to aid the understanding of an object.
Throughout the conference it was obvious the scientific application of 3D laser scanning is rapidly evolving. 3D laser scanners have been used since the 1980s. However, laser scanning has developed in such a way; it is now possible to reconstruct the topographic qualities of the southern hemisphere of Mercury. To achieve this success, the collaboration of experts from a wide range of disciplines is necessary. Whether it is with space researchers for mapping planets or computer designers for their understanding of a modeled environment, collaboration was constantly highlighted as key to innovation and success.
Day 1: 3D scanning and its uses in Art History and Archaeology.
The advantageous for using 3D laser scanning were a primary theme. Conservation was one of the main benefits highlighted for the application. What is more, 3D laser scanning can be used for the reconstruction of an object. Marcos Rodrigues, Annemarie La Pensée, and Laura Roviras, each discussed the benefits of conservation. Whether it was the documentation of over 400 cultural artefacts (Liverpool Museums), to create a visual permanent collection of metalwork (Sheffield University), or to record monuments for our future understanding after its demise (Magistricataloniae).
It is important to record objects because 3D models, unlike the original objects, do not erode, nor do they become too fragile for the public’s access. Amongst conservation, Anna Thirion showed that digitizing with a 3D laser scanner is being used for good in archaeological research. Anna’s research illustrated the ability to re-piece together a monument that is no longer standing and is located in different places around the world.
Dr. Phillip Lindley and Jack Hinton demonstrated it is possible to convey uncertainty and complexity with scanned data. Old theories could be re-examined and explored while 3D models are helpful to formulate ideas and consider understanding upon analysis.
Although the advantageous of 3D laser scanning were a major focus, it was refreshing to hear Annemarie La Pensée and Marcos Rodrigues discuss the challenges of 3D laser scanning. I feel this is an area often too difficult to discuss because nobody wants to talk about negative results. However, for progression within the field, there is a need to know and understand current challenges. Some of these issues included accuracy, resolution, uncooperative surfaces, operator influence and subjectivity.
The first day was very enjoyable with a range of topics covering archaeology, history, and art. I feel Dr. Phillip Lindley summarized the first day nicely as he said 3D laser scanning “has the ability to accurately scan monuments [and objects] and reconstruct lost monuments” while, “3D scanning is the drive to record an object because of the need to understand an object”. Understanding the object, with the help of collaboration, is something that each presenter included.
Day 2: Wider 3D scanning and digitization projects
The second day has six speakers who were using 3D laser scanners as wider research projects. Their research followed on nicely from the first day. The second day focused on maximizing laser scanning’s potential for the protection and conservation of objects while addressing more of the current challenges.
Paul Bryan spoke about the Stonehenge Landscape Project (Stonehenge Landscape Project) and how 3D laser scanning showed features located upon Stonehenge that had previously gone unnoticed (and increase from 44 to 115 Bronze Age axe head carvings). Douglas Pritchard showed us the fascinating ‘Scottish Ten Project’. This is the protection of five UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites (Scottish Ten Project). Pritchard highlighted the value for protecting heritage due to the current threat to them.
Dr. Andrew Wilson was slightly different focusing on the preservation of fragile human bone specimens. Through the JISC funded digitizing diseases project (Digitizing Disease) Dr. Wilson discussed the benefits for recording material that with time will be destroyed. David Arnold gave the shocking statistic, ‘one sculpture per week is lost in Britain’. Multiple individuals around the world can constantly access a permanent record at the same time without needing the original. With the technology of 3D printing, replicas can be created in their place. This also means it is possible to have the same model in several museums and institutions at once. This is hugely beneficial.
Finally, Mike Howe went even further back in time. Mike’s research (funded by JISC) discussed the benefits for recording fossils (Fossils Online) and creating a publicly accessible online database.
Challenges were also discussed. As David Arnold put it, “It’s a model – not a digital surrogate”. Challenges highlighted included, emerging good practices, file formats, metadata, operational workflows, cost implications, accuracy and precision.
These challenges were also discussed at the round table event. The discussion focused primarily on innovation and adapting old methods to suit new challenges. To do this promoting standards, metadata, data preservation (including storage), and collaboration were the key issues. I feel these points were highlighted through each presentation for the duration of the two-day symposium. There is certainly a mutual relationship and trust issue that has to be addressed. Using connections the development of new technology can be achieved. Yes technology is developing rapidly, however the understanding of technology is not. This may mean taking on more professionals to address the problem.
There are many advantages as there are disadvantages for using 3D laser scanning, likewise with any other imaging device. There is also a wide range of different apparatus that can be utilized for the necessary requirements. However, I think the underlying theme throughout the 3D laser scanning conference was collaboration. Without collaboration, schools cannot use the material for education, funding cannot be accessed, peer review and standards are not achieved. For the field to improve and continually grow, collaboration must be maintained. To do this future events and conferences like this one must be organized. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”.
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We are very pleased that three projects from the Content Programme have recently launched their web resources though they are still working to complete them. They all provide fantastic material for online Science teaching.
The Open Science Laboratory is an Open University initiative to provide innovative Science resources. JISC has supported the development of two virtual microscopes which are to be contained within the laboratory.
The Histology and Histopathology microscope currently offers a demonstrator site but will provide access to ‘300 annotated slides of normal and diseased tissue, assembled from 6 universities and medical schools’ by January 2013, whilst the Virtual Microscopes for Earth Sciences currently provides access to 60 rocks and thin sections from around the United Kingdom with approximately 140 more to be added by January.
More recently OVAM, the Online Virtual Anatomy Museum, launched a fantastic source of Veterinary Anatomy information organised into categories according to species. It aggregates peer reviewed collections from 15 institutions and there is an open invitation for organisations with virtual Anatomy teaching aides, data and information to contribute.
Led by the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London the project has created a resource which offers a great opportunity for advancements in Anatomy teaching. The project also benefits from a close collaboration with its sister project WikiVet, an encyclopaedic veterinary knowledge-base.