Imaging a future for the past – uncovering lost text from manuscripts

March 21, 2019

RIT Croatia Dubrovnik campus, in cooperation with Dubrovnik libraries, had the honor of hosting and organizing a series of lectures, a workshop and a round table discussion on the topic "Imaging a future for the past – uncovering lost text from manuscripts” that took place from March 18-20, 2019.

This first lecture was held on March 18 at the Dubrovnik campus and it was open to RIT Croatia students, as well as to students from Restauration program at the University of Dubrovnik. The audience was first greeted by Dr. David Messinger, professor at the Xerox Chair in Imaging Science and Director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT, who introduced the topic, followed by Ms. Tania Kleynhans, RIT’s PhD student on hyperspectral image analysis of illuminated manuscripts and paintings and Dr. Roger Easton, professor at RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.

The overall idea of the lecture was to introduce Cultural Heritage Imaging as a growing field of research into the use of novel imaging techniques to study historical objects of known or unknown significance.  Of particular interest are imaging techniques that go beyond the capabilities of the human visual system to discover new information about artifacts, either through the enhancement of faded or otherwise unreadable text, or through techniques that study the materials used in the creation and modification of the objects (i.e., pigments, substrates, tools, etc.).  The audience could see a high level overview of multispectral imaging and how it is used to "see through” faded, damaged or palimpsested texts. Examples of discoveries made through spectral imaging were also shown and discussed, which was particularly interesting, being that examples included new discoveries within the famous Archimedes Palimpsest at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the World Map by Henricus Martellus Germanus that is located at Yale University and many other. The lecture on the same topic was repeated at the Dubrovnik Public Library the same day and it was open to general public.

On March 19, there was a workshop that took place at the Dubrovnik Scientific Library and the goal of the historical spectral imaging workshop was to familiarize librarians, curators and scholars with the capabilities (and shortcomings) of spectral imaging. The workshop was also delivered by. Dr Messinger, Dr. Easton and Ms. Kleynhans, and it consisted of short presentations about successful recovery of texts, the basics of spectral imaging, and a high-level overview of how these imaging systems works. Moreover, the RIT team took the opportunity to image a handful of objects from the Scientific library such as parchment fragments, possible palimpsested material and faded text in order to explain and demonstrate the imaging process. This was followed by a discussion and demonstration of how to process the collected images in order to uncover the lost text.

This fascinating series of events was concluded by a round table discussion that took place on March 20 at the Dubrovnik Scientific Library. RIT representatives were joined by local specialists in the field of conservation and Restoration to discuss the outcomes of mentioned lectures and workshops as well as possible future cooperation.

"The entire visit could be seen as a gold-mining expedition. And I believe that we stroke gold! Dubrovnik has a lot of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Through a solid support from RIT, such Croatian establishments as the Libraries of Dubrovnik and the State archives in Dubrovnik, could have the means to increase their significance as repositories of cultural and heritage assets with the hope of becoming more attractive for scholars and researchers from all over Europe” concluded Dr. Francis Brassard, professor at RIT Croatia and coordinator of the event.


Biographies of the presenters

Dr. David Messinger received a Bachelors degree in Physics from Clarkson University and a Ph.D. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  He is currently a Professor, the Xerox Chair in Imaging Science, and Director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology where he previously was the Director of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory.  He is also an Associate Editor of the journal Optical Engineering and a Senior Member of SPIE.  He has published over 150 scholarly articles.  His personal research focuses on projects related to remotely sensed spectral image analysis using physics-based approaches and advanced mathematical techniques with applications ranging from precision agriculture to analysis of historical documents and artifacts.

Ms. Tania Kleynhans received a Bachelors degree in Mathematics and Operational Research from the University of South Africa, and an M.S. in Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Currently, Tania Kleynhans is an Associate Scientist at the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, RIT. She leads the Rochester Cultural Heritage Imaging, Visualization and Education group (R-CHIVE) and is responsible for the organization of the R-CHIVE conference, assisting student research and coordinating collaboration efforts. She assists in various research projects with involvement in measuring ink and material spectra, updating scripts on the prototype spectral imaging system for display at exhibitions, and research on application of algorithms to satellite imagery. Tania is doing her PhD part time on hyperspectral image analysis of illuminated manuscripts and paintings.

Dr. Roger Easton has been on the faculty of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science since 1986 after receiving his Ph.D. in Optical Sciences from the University of Arizona. He has worked to apply modern imaging technologies to the study of historical manuscripts since 1995, particularly the development of new image processing procedures for this task. He led the imaging team for the Archimedes Palimpsest project, and has been a team member on projects to image the David Livingstone Nyangwe Diaries, the Syriac-Galen palimpsest, "Les Échéz d'Amours" in Dresden, the Scythica Vindobonensia in Vienna, the ca. 1491 world map by Henricus Martellus Germanus at Yale University, and the Petermann II Nachtrag 24 palimpsest in Berlin, among others.

Photos by Grgo Jelavic and Vedran Levi

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