Museum Conservation and Automated Computational Photography Dome

Brinker Ferguson, CyArk, USA, Jing Liu, UCSC, USA

Currently, in the Jack Baskin School of Engineering at the University of California Santa Cruz, Dr. James Davis, an Associate Professor in Computer Science, Jing Liu, a Computer Science PhD Candidate, and Brinker Ferguson, a Visual Studies PhD Student, are working to expand and improve reflectance transformation imaging technology (from this point on referred to as RTI) to enable its larger and easier integration into museum practice. RTI is a technology that generates high-quality digital information of an object’s surface texture from photos taken at different light angles. In recent years, this information has led to greater scientific and technical research in conservation practice.

Thus far, our team has created a lightweight and portable three-foot RTI dome, which allows for greater accessibility and automated use in museum conservation labs. The dome consists of a series of lights that surround an object. A DSLR camera, which rests in a cradle at the top of the dome, takes an image with each individual light. The images taken by the camera are then sent wirelessly to a computer where they are automatically processed and compiled with a programming script into the Cultural Heritage Imaging RTI software.

In our demonstration at the Museums and the Web conference we will provide a brief overview of how our RTI dome automatically captures and processes digital object surface information, present a live demonstration, and speak about several future museum applications. These future applications include software that can supplement museum condition reports, as well as hardware and software that combines 2D object surface information with 3D scanning for museum objects.

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