2016 Conference Abstracts

Below are preliminary speaker abstracts for the 2016 Conference, we reserve the right to change or amend this list. E&OE.

Colour Photography, its Impact as a Medium of Communication, Information and Understanding of Past and Present.
Nils Torske, Museum Photographer, Levanger Photomuseum, Norway

Almost all the historical images we see are b/w. As a consequence we tend to think of the past as beinb without color. Women wore black dresses, men wore black suits. Cars were black, houses unpainted, or, at best, white or grey. Even bridal dresses were seemingly black. Based on old images in faded grey or sepia tones, we tend to believe the past was rather drab…

However, early color photography shows us a different picture. Based on the works of some early pioneers we’ll show that the past weren’t so colorless at all, on the contrary, it was a lot richer in color than we have ever imagined.

Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky documented the life and places in the Russian empire in vivid color using three-color photography before The Great War.

At the same time the Norwegian botanist Hanna Resvoll-Holmsen pioneered the use of color photography (Autochrome) in her studies of arctic and subarctic plants.

Albert Kahn’s great idea was to make an archive covering the entire planet, Archive de la Planète, engaging a number of photographers to document cultures from all over the world. One of them, Auguste Léon, followed Kahn on his journey to Norway in 1910, where he shot a great number of Autochromes.

Harald Renbjoer, the most important Norwegian color photography pioneer, started his lifelong devotion to color photography as early as 1907, at the age of barely eighteen. His work resulted in a unique documentation in color of a small town almost from the very beginning of the 20th century and the next fifty years.

Has color photography changed our view of times long gone? Are the old principles are still at work? In fact, our modern society can hardly do without them, as we shall see when we look at the implications of color photography, as a medium of communication and information. Electronic devices of all kinds, TV, computers, smartphones, i-pads, advertising screens, today even the movies, all rely on the principles demonstrated by James Clerk Maxwell on May 17th 1861.

The Drexel Digital Museum: imaging and interpreting the digital historic fashion object
Daniel Caulfield-Sriklad, Research Associate Drexel Digital Museum, Lecturer, London College of Fashion

The Drexel Digital Museum was conceived in 1998 by professor Kathi Martin as an online archive for historic fashion adhering to best practices. The archive stands as a searchable image database comprised of selected fashion from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection (FHCC) and designs loaned to the project by private collectors.

This presentation is an argument for digital online collections to use the digital space and its potential to enhance communication in new and interactive ways. Using the Drexel Digital Museum as a model to explore this idea, I intend to present the history of the project along with current research outcomes of the project, including:

  • The 3D rendering of a human model that can ‘wear’ a digital reproduction of a Helena Rubenstein evening gown, circa 1932, from the FHCC. There are three fundamental aspects to this process: the historical accuracy for the digital replica of the garment, the body and the movement applied to the simulation.
  • High resolution GigaPan imaging, which can be displayed at 1:1 scale, rotated 360 degrees, and zoomed into details far beyond what can be perceived by the unaided human eye.

Since we will be conserving the physical historic garments by not exhibiting them, this high resolution-imaging technique offers alternative ways of preserving the physical and exhibiting digital. Through the act of digitisation and presenting collections online, digital museum spaces are being populated with digital objects awaiting interpretation. Translating interaction into an online environment creates different expectations for the online audience. With this in mind I will present how we are re-imagining the potential of this online collection.

Following a re-design, the Drexel Digital Museum will progress as an image-based digital object archive of contemporary and historic fashion. The emphasis for the online archive will be an experience-based interactive platform where the digital artefacts take precedence. This represents a new way of experiencing digital objects within a bespoke digital space.

The concept of the museum space has evolved from an exclusivity around physically seeing and experiencing museum objects, which made sense in the analogue age. In the digital age, there are new ways to share and experience digital content. This presentation illustrates how embracing this trajectory from the physical to the digital, we are allowing for an experience far beyond what was traditionally understood as the final resting place for the fashion artefact in the physical museum collection.

Drexel Digital Museum Project:

3D simulation of historic fashion:

GigaPan imaging of historic fashion:

“Flying High” Aerial Photography no longer means a helicopter!
Hugh Gilbert & Phil Conrad

We will use a stately home as a subject, location to be revealed. The use of the drone and a high resolution camera will bring forward two points of focus: The first being a review of the structure of the historic house from the maintenance perspective. The second being the overview of what is a splendid house and its attendant gardens.

We will develop the theme to demonstrate how effective drone technology has become to aid the departments responsible for the maintenance of historic buildings and monuments, allowing a regular inspection without all the attendant expense of cherry pickers, scaffolding and health and safety issues.

We will also demonstrate how the use of a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) can be used to inspire the visitor to attend historic houses and other locations by giving an overview and insight as to what is to be seen.

For some more background visit,

at the bottom of the page below are a couple of example videos….

Wel(l)come@3D and 3DBOX
a modular kit for photogrammetry
Mona Hess, John Hindmarch & Deborah Leem, UCL London

3D imaging by photogrammetry and Structure from Motion (SfM) technology is now readily accessible for image professionals in the cultural heritage sector and photographers through new user-friendly software and computing power/cloud computing. The most expensive element in this 3D digitisation process, the hardware – cameras and lighting – are already part of museums’ photographic studios. Whilst these professional studios might have the equipment to create an ideal set-up, this project is exploring a low-cost, portable solution for photogrammetry in small museums , libraries , archives, or even in the field at an archaeological excavation.

As the results of a museum-university partnership developing a new solution was designed, as a modular kit, called 3DBOX (©M.Hess, J.Hindmarch), as prototype for museum in-house photogrammetric recording. This includes protocols to ensure dimensional quality control through the Portable Heritage Test Object (©M.Hess).

3DBOX was designed as part of the project Wel(l)come@3D. The project has delivered training courses for in-house recording of 3D digital models towards creating digital 3D assets for websites and research. The project is also providing pathways to 3D printing, with the aim to provide access to selected collection items at Wellcome. The use of digital dissemination through AR and VR apps in cultural heritage institutions is also explored.

The Strines Journal: Practice-led research into Historic Photographic Processes
Tony Richards, Heritage Photographer
The John Rylands Library, Manchester

The digitisation of a recently acquired 1850’s manuscript, The Strines Journals, led to experimentation in historic photographic processes at the University of Manchester Library.
The Strines Journals contain several chapters on the lens, camera and newly developed photographic techniques. Following these written instructions, focusing on Henry Fox Talbot’s original Calotype recipe and Salt Printing, has led to some challenging results.
This research has encouraged development of Special Collections staff appreciation and understanding of the Visual Collections of the University of Manchester Library.

Digitisation of oversized material at Cambridge University Library
Maciej M Pawlikowski, Chief Photographic Technician
Cambridge University Library

Our recently acquired XYZ table is an interesting example of a motorised horizontal easel. It is a custom design, and fitted with DT Rcam camera and IQ180 digital back.

Big part of the process to design the table was making sure it is non proprietary solution which can be upgraded and modified in future. It was challenging to create an efficient workflow which could allow us to capture oversized collections consistently using existing colour management solutions.

Use of small format cameras in the photography of dolls house objects
Richard Shellabear, Senior Photographer
Todd-White Art Photography

Like most people in the field we normally work with ‘medium format’ digital cameras, in our case multishot Hasselblads. However, the possibility of using smaller ‘semi-professional’ cameras should not be overlooked when documenting small objects.
The job Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle contains a very large number of high quality scale models of 1930’s objects, ranging from the relatively large (the cars in the garage) down to the very small (a box of matches). As each item was removed for conservation there was a need to photograph it, and since the exhibit is open to the public (and very popular) time was limited.

Our Approach Working in our normal way with a Hasselblad would have thrown up numerous problems, largely to do with the bulk and weight of the camera plus macro lens, and the fairly slow capture time. Instead we chose to use an Olympus EM-5 mark 2, usually with a 60mm macro lens.

Advantages The camera was much smaller and lighter, so easier to position. With an ISO 200 sensitivity and optimum aperture of F5.6 to F8 exposure times could be shorter, minimising vibration problems while still having acceptably low lighting levels. When ‘driven’ from a laptop workflow was similar to that with the Hasselblad. The big advantage though is Olympus’ focus stacking. Focus manually on the closest point – fairly easy with ‘live view’ on the computer monitor-, chose the degree of focus shift between exposures and the number of exposures, and it will shoot them at up to 10 frames a second. Since it’s a electronic shutter there is no noticeable vibration. We would typically shoot 20 exposures, but if it was not enough (distant part of the object not in focus), hitting the capture button a second time would capture another burst carrying on from the last focus point. The raw files would then be processed in Adobe Lightroom, combined in Helicon Focus, and retouched as usual.

Drawbacks Depth of field is no better than with a larger camera, since stopping down to our usual Hasselblad working aperture of F14 destroys the image quality on the smaller format. As a result the total amount of data to be handled and processed is still large, with 1000’s of exposures in a busy day. Above all though the ‘margin of error’ is very small – a 16 megapixel file from an old Hasselblad 384c multishot will tolerate far more ‘abuse’ in terms of exposure and processing than a similar sized file from a micro four-thirds camera. Careful processing at every stage is essential, so for instance care is needed in Helicon to get optimum sharpness without magnifying the noise inherent in such a small sensor.

Visualising surface texture through the combination of 2D and 3D data
Xavier Aure, PhD student
Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England, Bristol, and the National Gallery, London. (AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award)

The National Gallery in London has recently been testing the potential of 3D scanning technology to record and measure the surface of paintings, using a Lucida laser scanner custom built by Factum Arte.

The Lucida software outputs 3D information as 2D grayscale depth-map files. These files can be used to generate 2D shaded renders of the textured surface and also, after processing with 3D software, they can be used to produce the traditional 3D triangular meshes.

In order to explore further methods to visualise and interact with the captured surface texture a new workflow is being developed. This combines existing 2D image based techniques and virtual Reflectance Transformation Imaging with the 3D data to generate both interactive RTI images and high-resolution coloured 3D models of paintings.

For this talk I would like to briefly explain the process I follow from 3D scanning the paintings to the generation of the various final outputs. I would also like to include some work in progress that involves using an RTI dome to produce high-resolution normal maps of the surface of paintings. The normal maps are incorporated into the 3D models to create the illusion of a highly detailed texture without the strain of a multimillion polygonal mesh. I would finally show a couple of examples of rendered models.

The RICH project, a unique tool for the monitoring of art objects: the Microdome
Bruno Vandermeulen, Head of the Digitisation Department
UBD Digitisation, University Library Leuven

With a focus on quality and innovation, the Imaging Lab (KU Leuven) specializes in inventarisation and digitisation of heritage. It is conveniently located in the University Library, the university landmark building and one of the leading Heritage Libraries in Flanders.

The RICH project (KU Leuven) has developed, in close collaboration with art historians, engineers and photography experts a unique tool for the monitoring of art objects: the Microdome.

It consists of a hemispherical structure with 228 LED emitters on the inside and a single downwards looking camera on top. Each lamp is lit individually and subsequently an image is taken. After processing an interactive file allows for virtual re-lighting. While the principle is similar to RTI, the underlying processing algorithm is vastly different. Based on Photometric Stereo, it allows for more accurate results and enhanced visualisation tools such as albedo or BRDF information.

Last year the multi-spectral Microdome was developed, incorporating five different spectra (365 nm, 460nm, 525nm, 623nm, 850nm). Apart from automatic creation of false color images, shifting through the individual spectra is also possible, while maintaining the interactive relighting.

Digitising, Geo Referencing and Transcribing 1100 Tithe maps
Scott Waby, Head of Digitisation
The National Library of Wales / Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru

The National Library of Wales is in the final stages of completing an ambitious project to Digitise, Geo Reference and Transcribe 1100 Tithe maps from it’s collections. This talk will explore the difficulties in photographing the large rolled maps (some of which are over 4 metres wide), present a solution to resolve the issues, and show how complex tasks such as transcription, border clipping and georeferencing can be completed by untrained remote volunteers.

It Takes A Village: Digitisation of Private Asylum Records
Laura Stevens, Project Officer: Digitisation of Private Asylum Records
Stephen McCann (Manager of The University of Glasgow’s Photographic and Print Units)
Jamie Dunn (Project Digitiser)
Samuel Dyer (Staff Digitiser)
University of Glasgow Digitisation Centre

Digitisation is a process that requires participants from across the heritage sector: curators, librarians, conservators, information technology gurus, and archivists. The linchpin that under carries this process and these participants is the work carried out by professional digitisers. As digitisation work becomes increasingly complex, it is essential that these professionals, from across the heritage sphere, work together to meet user expectations. This form of collaboration has been worked on the University of Glasgow Digitisation Centre.

This paper will examine the collaborative digitisation experience using a selection of case studies including the Centre’s ongoing mass-digitisation project, Digitisation of Mental Healthcare Archives. This Wellcome Trust funded project involves engaging with three external partners to digitise over 352, 000 images of historic asylum records. Digitising an extensive body of material requires daily cooperation from the project team of digitisers, archivists and conservators. This collusion ensures key components including metadata, image file formats and care of the original archival documents are met and balanced with delivering a final product of an exceptional standard. The presenters will also examine other digitisation work representative of the department’s portfolio ranging from reprographics of unique archival material to tailor-made digitisation solutions for external customers. These case studies provide a unique opportunity to examine the impact of a large scale digitisation project within an expanding digitisation centre, highlights the importance of internal and external collaboration within the heritage sphere and speculates on the impact that digitisation has on the work carried out by heritage professionals.

“At the Edge of the Curatorial Gaze”: A critical reflection on the exploration of museum storage spaces in my photographic project The Chaos of Memory (2015)
Nick Bright, Photographer and Senior Lecturer at University of the West of England

This paper will draw on my ongoing photographic study of museum backstage spaces, and discuss the representational characteristics of what happens when objects are ‘performative’ and on display, verses when they are ‘resting’ and in storage. Materially the object remains the same ‘thing’, and the transmission of the object, from a thing to an artefact, is through the representation of the staging through to the expectations of the audience. This paper will also discuss what transformations happen when the objects are represented in photography – when things become subjects. My study asks, what happens in areas where these activities of control and display are less rigorously applied – where they slip out of the peripheral gaze of the curatorial eye?

In part I will draw on ideas explored by Henning (2006), in her examination of how both historical and contemporary museums have sought to restage the relationship between things and their audience. Working from a materialist agenda, Henning argues that objects are not compliant in being reduced to documents, texts or representations. Indeed, rather than being objects, they are obstinate ‘things’ within which museum content is embedded rather than superimposed upon it by the institution. For Henning, these things exist within a “community of objects” (2006, 11) and that our ability to interpret these things is reliant upon acculturation. This paper will present images made by myself and others, discussing how museums aids interpretation through the use of display practices such as arrangement, labelling and framing (architectural or actual) and could be seen to assemble, or disassemble, what an object ‘is’ through the designation of rules of access. It is through being placed within these networks of relationships that things acquire a sense of ‘objecthood’. As Hein, cited in Henning (2006, 7), states;

“objecthood, like textual meaning, results from multileveled
acts of attention by individuals, social groups and institutions.
Socially objectified things are imbued with meaning, layer
upon layer, within sanctioned structures of reference.”

This paper will critically reflect and locate the development of my project work alongside particular examples of contemporary photographic practices and within specific debates relating to the effects of entering into what Bennett (1995) describes as an “exhibitionary complex”, upon both objects and individuals within an institutional consumption of culture.

I will argue that artefacts situated within the public display arena of museums exist within a highly delineated environment, but one that does not necessarily make for a more intimate and comfortable relationship between the audience and displayed object.