2015 Conference Abstracts

Conference Podcasts page – listen/download the talks.

Susan Pettigrew, Photographer, Digital Imaging Unit, Edinburgh University Library
2 and 3D Reflection and Application
As the successful recipient of the 2015 AHFAP bursary, I attended the informative and inspiring ‘2 and 3D: Practice and Prophecies’ Conference at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The two intensive days of lectures and workshops in heritage photography presented a rare and exciting opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading institutions in a wide range of areas, including standardisation in colour, mass-digitisation and bespoke object-specific photography techniques, panoramas, multispectral and 3D imaging, digital asset management and the role of photography in heritage institutions.
In this presentation I will reflect on what I took away from the conference and how we have applied this knowledge in the developing role of our Digital Imaging Unit, from improving standards to engaging with innovative technologies. I will also showcase some of the exciting projects The University of Edinburgh is undertaking and discuss how we intend to use these new skills as part of the re-development of Scotland’s oldest concert hall and musical instrument museum.

Susan’s bursary was sponsored by ColourConfidence, see the 2015 bursary page for more information.

Antonia Reeve, Antonia Reeve Photography
An Accidental Specialist
Perspectives and views on my career in cultural heritage photography.

Kristin Phelps, Senior Imaging Technician, British Library
Tweet Away: Opening up the studio in the era of social media
Digitisation of collections has become a powerful method of not only preserving cultural heritage but also increasing the public reach of institutions such as the British Library. The impact of digitisation can be positive in terms of increased funding or public engagement but it can also be negative in terms of brand association with subpar quality or lack of respect for cultural context. Thus, cultural heritage imaging professionals have both an opportunity and a responsibility to make studios more open and transparent places whilst adhering to ethical and quality standards. This duality extends to use of social media.  The British Library, which has had a presence on Twitter since 2009, is leveraging its tremendous reach and directness to engage the wider public. The BL encourages its employees to use their own personal networks on social media sites in order to further the institutional presence. In the case of the Imaging Studio, a personal account has been used as the Studio’s Twitter account during the last 6 months.
The BL has seen the tangible benefits of social media in terms of establishing new connections with potential funders and collaborators. Daily tweeted images remind the public of items held in our collections not currently on display or not generally known, harnessing in a direct manner the “big data” kept on the BL’s shelves. Like any tool, Twitter must be used with care, even more so given its vast reach and directness. The BL has produced a set of guidelines for social media users who use their account for some institutional tweets. The content of each tweet must be carefully considered and researched. In fact, the end product of the process, the tweet itself, represents the joining up of multiple individuals and parts of the institution. But, the end result of seeing a tweet which has inspired someone makes the process worthwhile.

Joshua Akin, Digital Imaging Officer, Royal Museums Greenwich
Ship Model Rigging Post Production
An insight into our workflow for cutting out images of complex, rigged ship models.  This involves using masking techniques so that we can ensure that the models appear on a pure white background.

Stacey Rain Strickler, Senior Photographer, Getty Museum
Safe-Light Imaging: Documenting the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection of light-sensitive photographs
Light is essential to the creation of a photograph, but also potentially damaging to some properly developed and fixed photographic prints. Especially sensitive to light are the precious remnants of the earliest photographic experiments using the positive-negative process, such as some salted paper prints, calotypes, and cyanotypes.
These types of objects in the Getty’s collection are safely stored in a climate-controlled environment, in total darkness, unseen except by limited access to curators, conservators, and scholars. A museum-wide initiative to document all of the objects in the Getty’s photographs collection for the purpose of making them available on-line has prompted the need to develop a method of safe-light imaging of these fragile works of art. This was accomplished through research conducted over the course of several years by conservators, scientists and imaging specialists at the Getty Museum and the Getty Conservation Institute. In this presentation, I will give an outline of the project; description of the method; practical considerations; provide a step-by-step guide to the studio set-up; and share images of recently documented objects.

Kevin Lovelock, Senior Photographer, British Museum
Harry Lamacraft – A remarkable man
Having researching the history of photography at the British Museum I discovered an Assistant Photographer named Harry Lamacraft. He was employed by the Museum in 1928 and although there are no photographs attributed to Harry he had a remarkable life. Whilst employed at the British Museum in his spare time he was a renowned motorcyclist and then he enlisted in the RAF as a navigator in World War 2.

Lindsay MacDonald Ph.D, Research Fellow (UCL)
Multispectral Image Capture and Research at UCL
Lindsay will describe three different systems that are currently being used at UCL for multispectral image capture and will considering the performance and limitations of each of these systems. Lindsay will also describe work he has been participating in a multispectral ’round robin test’ within a European network called ‘Colour and Space in Cultural Heritage’ (COSCH).

Lucy Millson-Watkins, Photographer, Historic England
My experience on a Historic Environment Placement
On completion of an 18-month Historic Environment Placement at English Heritage / Historic England, Lucy shares her experience of being a photographer within the sector. Focusing on architectural photography for The Survey of London but also documenting a varied array of archaeology, sculpture and WW1 memorials over the centenary period, Lucy will be reflecting on the journey from academia to professional practice and the continued importance of specialism in a digital world.

Elie Posner, Head of Photography, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Ethical Issues in Museum Photography
We are all familiar with the ethical issues regarding fashion and photojournalism, but I would like to talk about the ethical issues we, as museum photographers encounter during our everyday work.
During working in the studio, some questions arise:
Are we have to stay faithful to the original, or are we permitted, by means of photography & photoshop, to beautify, improve, remodel, resize, or make any other kind of change in order to get the most out of the viewer’s experience? Are small changes permitted? Where do we draw the line? Do we, as image consumers, relate to a photograph of a museum object as an image/replica of the original, or as an original in its own right??
For example, a curator who was at an auction, and saw an image of an object, wanted to purchase it, but when she saw the original, she was very disappointed, it looked much less impressive in real life. Perhaps all museum photography should be strictly technical, with a color scale and a measuring ruler, also in catalogues? Maybe we can try and answer some of these issues, as we approach the subject matter.

Carlos Bayod Lucini, Factum Arte
The Multilayer File: Surface 3D Scanning as a complement to Photographic Documentation
Lucida is the 3D scanner custom built by Factum Arte for Conservation and Documentation purposes. Designed by artist and engineer Manuel Franquelo and fabricated by Factum Arte’s photographic department, this system is the result of more than ten years of investigation into the high resolution recording of the surface of paintings and low relief objects. Digitalization of the relief of a work of art is a relatively new field of investigation: it can be used both to study and monitor the surface of an object and to re-materialize it in diverse forms, ranging from virtual restorations to the construction of exact facsimiles. The validity of this type of recording is dependent on the quality of the data gathered; in the field of art documentation this is usually synonymous with surface resolution and accuracy. 3D recording has since its inception focused on capturing the shape of an object and it is only very recently that the technology available has been able to record texture data accurately. Texture is essential for research, investigation and documentation, especially in combination with other types of data such as colour photography, infrared or x-ray. It is for this purpose that Factum Arte has also developed a multilayer viewer that allows to inspect online various layers of high resolution data in an easy and intuitive way. Recording the relief of an original artwork as reliably as possible is leading to new insights and an intimate knowledge about why objects look the way they do.
Factum Arte has extensive experience in employing digital technology to record cultural heritage sites and objects in diverse locations around the world, from the Valley of the Kings in Egypt to the Musée du Louvre in Paris. The Lucida 3D scanner is being used in institutions like the National Gallery, the Courtauld Institute, the Bodleian Library and the Ashmolean Museum.

Robert G. Erdmann, Ph.D, Senior Scientist, Rijksmuseum
New Strategies for Interactive Web-based Visualization of Cultural Heritage Imagery
Modern digital photography and scientific imaging provide unparalleled opportunities for art historians, conservators, scientists, and the general public to better understand, appreciate, and preserve our cultural heritage.  However, the imagery for a single object is often drawn from several sources and captured from several viewpoints, resulting in data sets sometimes exceeding tens or hundreds of gigabytes for a single object.  These large data sets can be very difficult to visualize using traditional techniques, so their utility and accessibility are severely limited.
Several new interactive web-based technologies developed at the Rijksmuseum and for the Bosch Research and Conservation Project aim to help solve this problem.  Data is fused through registration across imaging modalities and viewpoints, and the resulting registered imagery can then be explored using a variety of visualization strategies, each carefully designed to facilitate comparisons across scales, viewpoints, and wavelengths.  By utilizing open and standard web technologies, the viewers work across different browsers and devices, from mobile phones to powerful servers.  Sculptures and paintings from the Rijksmuseum provide motivation for the new techniques, including the newly-acquired Bacchant sculpture by Adriaen de Vries, Rembrandt’s “The Jewish Bride”, and works by Vermeer.

Ivor Kerslake, Photography and Imaging Manager, British Museum
An evolution in style 1855 to 2015
My intention is to show how photography at the British Museum has evolved over a period of 160 years since Roger Fenton became the Museum’s first employed photographer. Through to the present day, style, taste and purpose have progressed and while the technology used to produce the final image has steadily changed, the basic premise of placing an object on a background and lighting it is fundamentally still the same.