Past Projects

E-Curator

The E-Curator 3D scanning research project was completed at UCL Museums and Collections in 2008. This project drew on UCL's expertise both in curatorship and in e-Science. The project explored the use of 3D colour scanning and e-Science technologies to capture and share very large 3D colour scans and detailed datasets about museum artefacts in a secure computing environment.

Introduction

The E-Curator 3D scanning research project was completed at UCL Museums and Collections in 2008. This project drew on UCL's expertise both in curatorship and in e-Science. It took advantage of the presence at UCL of world class collections across a range of disciplines and of a state of the art colour scanner, the quality of which is unequalled in the UK. The project explored the use of 3D colour scanning and e-Science technologies to capture and share very large 3D colour scans and detailed datasets about museum artefacts in a secure computing environment. The combination of these technologies could assist curators and conservators in object identification and assessment, both locally and remotely.

The E-Curator project was jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Arts and Humanities e-Science Support Centre (AHESSC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).


The aim of this project was to bring together, through workshops, practical sessions and conferences, as well as in an edited publication, museum conservators, educators, scientists, curators and other professionals from the higher education and museum sectors who are interested in this technology and its implications across the heritage sector.

Aims

Objectives

e-Science methodology

Recently, the advantages of 3D scanning and e-Science technologies have gained increasing attention in Art and Humanities research. The application of these two technologies to museum work and artefact analysis is the main goal of the E-Curator project.

The AHRC-oriented aims of e-Curator are to:

  • develop a traceable methodology for recording the surface detail and colour quality of a range of object types and materials
  • explore the potential for producing validated datasets that would allow closer and more scientific examination of groups of objects, the processes involved in their manufacture, and issues of wear and deterioration.
  • examine how the resulting datasets could be transmitted, shared and compared.
  • begin to build expertise in the use and transmission of 3D scan data as a curatorial tool

At a time when museums are being urged to enter into more international partnerships, to engage with different cultural perspectives, and to loan their collections more freely, the development of e-Curator could alleviate some of the practical barriers to the movement of people and objects, enhancing international scholarship and facilitating the safe movement of artefacts.

3D colour scanner

3D Colour Laser Scanning Research

3D colour scanning offers the potential to revolutionise artefact documentation. 3D colour scans can record the whole object, in the round, in great detail. There are many potential ways in which such scans could be used. They could enable curators in different institutions to compare closely ostensibly similar artefacts without travelling to see them. They could assist in the monitoring of decay and environmental damage over time, both within a museum or gallery or more critically when objects travel, for instance in touring exhibitions.

Objects have been selected from UCL Museums and Collections, to form the basis of this study. The artefacts represent a range of organic and inorganic materials and cover a range of disciplines; archaeology, anthropology and art. They have been selected by curators because they also present a range of issues in recording surface details. For instance, they will test the potential of 3D colour scanning technologies to recompose important markings lost to the naked eye, and offer new means of analysing, recording and comparing surface decay. One of the project aims is to develop a traceable methodology for recording the surface detail and colour quality of a range of object types and materials as well as to extend the scanning methodologies used and the level of possible analysis towards flexible objects.

Each of these objects will be scanned using a state of the art Arius3D Foundation Model 150 Colour Scanner, which is unique in the UK, to create detailed object ‘fingerprints’ of a range of artefact types. The scanner, which has recently been commissioned at UCL, is able to deliver 3D coloured point data at a sampling interval of 0.1mm (~250 dots per inch) at an accuracy of the order of 0.025mm over the surface of an object. Object of cross section up to 89cm x 50cm can be scanned. The scanner collects 3D geometry information through the use of a laser triangulation system, whilst colour is collected by analysis of the reflected light from three lasers at 638 nm, 532 nm, and 473 nm. These capabilities confer the project with the ability to produce state of the art 3D models which have a level of geometric and colour standardization that easily surpass any other available recording process.

External Links:

E-Science Technology

Matching technique

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/research/ecurator/software_folder E-Science technologies are being widely applied in scientific fields such as meteorology, chemical engineering, medical research and electronics. This project would make use of e-science storage system (the Storage Resource Broker with Globus Grid Security Infrastructure) to securely distribute very large 3D object scans between museums and academic institutions, whilst ensuring that the data was reliable enough to be used for purposes such as checking the condition of touring artifacts and allowing the verifications of that condition by insurers.

Object scans will initially be stored on a file server at UCL running the Storage Resource Broker (SRB) server software. Metadata drawn from museums catalogues will also be stored, allowing partner sites to search for objects using standard curatorial terminologies. More about the E-Curator prototype software architecture here.

During the project this server will be federated with other SRB systems sharing comparable data, particularly at partner sites that are making heavy use of the scans. These sites will also be assisted with obtaining X.509 certificates from the UK e-Science Certification Authority in order that they may securely access confidential SRB data.

The project will also experiment with directly integrating SRB access into the Web browser plugins used to visualize the object scans, taking advantage of new WSRF-compliant Web Service architectures such as GT4. This will remove the need for the use of separate file manager applications such as inQ to access the object database.

External links:

Software

The E-Curator application basically consists of two major parts: the server and the client.

Software scheme

The server

The server comprises three major software components: the Storage Resource Broker (SRB), MetaData Catalog (MCAT) and e-Curator middleware. The SRB and MCAT systems are software produced by San Diego Supercomputer Centre (SDSC). The SRB is an e-Science storage system, which is used to store large 3D scan images; while MCAT is a metadata repository system, which is used to store metadata drawn from museum catalogues. E-Curator middleware handles user requests and responses sent via the Internet.

The client

On the client side, curators and conservators can access the 3D object scans and catalogue information via the e-Curator website. The website enables users to compare records collected at different institutions and stored remotely, or collected over a period of time under different conditions. The full 3D colour data provide rotational viewing and allow users to freely observe the virtual representation of the object from any viewpoint and over a range of magnifications. By using mouse clicks, users can zoom, rotate, tumble and pan the 3D scans. Such scans supplemented by the catalogue information could be used in many ways. They could aid identification, for example enabling the reading of hitherto illegible inscriptions on degraded surfaces. They could enable curators in different institutions to compare closely ostensibly similar artefacts without travelling to see them. They could assist in the monitoring of decay and environmental damage over time, both within a museum or gallery or more critically when objects travel, for instance in touring exhibitions. The data is also reliable enough to be used by insurer to verify the condition of touring artifacts.

Team

The E-curator Steering Group members were:

Sally MacDonald

Director of UCL Museums and Public Engagement. Principal Investigator of the E-curator Project.

Dr Graeme Were

Was Head of Teaching and Research Collections at UCL and is now Lecturer in Museum Studies at the University of Queensland, Australia. He was responsible for the selection of suitable objects and co-ordinate the scanning process from the curatorial side. 

Dr Stuart Robson

Department of Geomatic Engineering at UCL, he is an expert in laser scanning and engineering metrology and will coordinate and ensure quality control in the acquisition and data processing stages of the project.

Dr Ian Brown

He is a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, and an honorary senior lecturer at University College London. He will manage the design and implementation of the e-Science framework for the project, supervising the Computer Science research assistant. 

Yean-Hoon Ong

Computer Science-based research assistant is undertaking a technology transfer process within which existing e-science, model visualisation and engineering metrology software tools are integrated to produce a computing environment that is appropriate for use by those working on the chosen objects from the arts and humanities components of the project.

Mona Hess

Museums and Collections-based research assistant has joined the project once the core software tools were at a stage where they can be tested with larger data sets. She is working with the Steering Group to organise the formative workshop, and all interim evaluation sessions with curators and conservators. She will organise the summative workshop contribute to the final report and publish in appropriate professional contexts.

Francesca Simon Millar

The AHRC Project student will explore the usage of the developed tools and undertake re-scanning and comparison of the objects on a periodic basis. This work will form the basis of a PhD investigation of the abilities of 3D colour scanning and e-science based data sharing and visualization for the museum community.

Dissemination

Dissemination

During the project, a number of internal and external formative workshops will be organised to offer investigators, curators, conservators and other interested parties at UCL the opportunity to look in more detail at the proposed project and produce a more detailed specification and review criteria. These workshops will also consider the requirements for the user interface, and requirements for labelling and linking to external data sources.

Workshops

The first E-Curator workshop took place on February 29th, 2008, at UCL. Several curators and conservators from UCL Museums were invited by the e-Curator steering group. The goal of the workshop was to find out what the users expect from the e-Curator application and to seek an ideal outcome for designing the interface for the web-based software tool.

A participatory approach to user designed systems was used during the workshop. It began with a 'Condition Report and Catalogue Entry' session, in which curators and conservators demonstrated the preparation of condition report and catalogue entry using objects from UCL Museums and Collections. Following that, participants were requested to write a list of the features they would think as being most useful within the software. These features were then brought together and were ranked according to their priorities. The workshop continued with presentations about the scanning process with Airus3D and the planned software architecture. It closed with a Discussion Session.

Publications

An important part of the dissemination and feedback was reached by giving papers and posters on international conference in the sector of 3D, Heritage and Museums. The E-Curator team has published in the following conference proceedings/ papers:

2011
Hess M., MacDonald S., Brown I, Simon Millar F., Were G., Robson S.,: Well connected to your digital object? E-Curator: a web-based e-science platform for museum artefacts. Special Issue about cyberinfrastructure for the arts and humanities and the digital object of Literary and Linguistic Computing, Oxford Journals

2010
M. Hess, S. Robson: 3D colour imaging for heritage artefacts. ISPRS Commission V - Close Range Image Measurement Techniques, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 22-24th June 2010

2009
Hess M., Robson S., Were G.,Simon Millar F., Hviding E., Berg C. A. : Niabara - the Western Solomon Islands War Canoe at the British Museum. 3D documentation, virtual reconstruction and digital repatriation. Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia VSMM 2009. "Vision or Reality? Computer Technology and Science in Art, Cultural Heritage, Entertainment and Education", Vienna, Austria, September 9-12, 2009

Final report on the E-Curator project on the AHESSC website.

Ariadne online magazine for information professionals in archives, libraries and museums in all sectors (Issue 60/ July 2009): E-Curator: A 3D web-based Archive for Conservators and Curators.

2008
Traceable storage and transmission of colour laser scan datasets. S.Robson, I. Brown, M. Hess, S. MacDonald, Y-H. Ong, F. Simon Millar (pp 93-99) in Digital Heritage. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Virtual Systems and Multimedia (full papers), Editors: M. Ioannides, A. Addison et al., Archaeoloingua/ Budapest 2008. ISBN: 978-963-8046-99-4. VSMM/ CIPA 2008 Conference dedicated to Digital Heritage: Our Hi-tech-STORY for the Future; Cyprus, 20 - 26 October 2008, http://www.vsmm2008.org/

E-Curator: 3D colour scans for object assessment.
S. Robson, I. Brown, M. Hess, S. MacDonald, Y-H. Ong, F. Simon Millar. CIDOC 2008 conference in Athens dedicated to The Digital Curation of Cultural Heritage;, Athens/ Greece, 15-18 September 2008, http://www.cidoc2008.gr/cidoc/

Hess M., Simon Millar F., Ong Y-H., Robson S., Were G., Brown I., MacDonald S. : 3D colour scans for objects assessment, EVA conference "Electronic Imaging and the Visual Arts", 22-24 July 2008, London/ England, Conference Proceedings, Editors: S. Dunn, S. Keene, G. Mallen, J. Bowen. The British Computer Society, Plymouth 2008, ISBN 978-1-906124-07-6, pp 125 – 13.



Likeness and Facial Recognition Research Network

Timekeeper in Residence (c) Cathy Haynes

UCL Museums and Collections was awarded a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in 2010 to develop a series of three interdisciplinary research workshops to investigate Likeness and Facial Recognition. Programmes and abstracts from each of the three workshops are available to download.


Timekeeper in Residence

What does the museum timeline have to do with the novel Tristram Shandy? Why does Botox make time go faster? Is evolution really a march of progress? Why did the Ancients think the future is behind them? And why doesn’t the universe all tick to the same clock? These were just some of the questions explored in a creative research project at The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in 2013. Supported with an award from the Arts Humanities Research Council (AHRC), artist-curator Cathy Haynes as Timekeeper in Residence explored how time is mapped, measured, modeled and lived.