COSCH e-Bulletin No. 3 (2016)


The four-year COST Action, ‘Colour and Space in Cultural Heritage' (COSCH), started in November 2014. The current issue of the COSCH e-Bulletin reports on the activities of five working groups constituting the COSCH Action in the period from November 2014 to July 2015. Some interim results are presented of the Action's ongoing work towards a consensus in defining the best possible interdisciplinary standards in recording and visualisation of material cultural heritage. Conceptual approaches and scientific, technical and procedural standards are a subject of ongoing discussions. There are many unresolved questions. The processes of seeking the most effective methods through developing and testing different techniques are always instructive and important to future research. These processes, often forgotten once the solution is found, are evidenced in the interim reports published here. Although the interim reports represent work-in-progress they offer a wealth of information. The interim reports will be superseded by a comprehensive final report on the activities of the COSCH Action to be submitted to the European Foundation of Science and Technology in November 2016.

Informed by earlier research, whose overview is provided and supported by references to relevant literature, the authors describe topical subjects of research concerning spectral and spatial techniques for examination and recording of cultural heritage, as well as relevant algorithms, alongside issues in conservation and visualisation.

The COSCH Working Group 1 reports on the review of earlier research into spectral imaging of material culture and on a series of new tests developed by the Group, which is led by Marcello Picollo of the Institute for Applied Physics "Nello Carrara" of the Italian National Research Council (IFAC-CNR). Several historic objects, representative of properties common to material cultural heritage, have been chosen for a round robin test. Its aim was to assess and compare the characteristics and performance of spectral imaging instruments in the selected laboratories participating in COSCH.

The COSCH Working Group 2, led by Robert Sitnik of Warsaw University of Technology, reports on their review and evaluation of existing techniques for spatial recording of heritage objects. They assess the impact of environmental conditions on the accuracy of 3D measurements. The properties of available software and hardware are also assessed. The lack of integrated systems for an effective multimodal recording and imaging may not be as acute in cultural heritage studies as it is in medicine. Nonetheless, as evidenced in the report, a setup for simultaneous use of different techniques that currently operate within a single modality remains an important goal of research into technologies for accurate documentation of cultural heritage. Accurate comparison of measurements taken with different devices is equally important, yet still problematic.  

Although computing is powered by algorithms, they generally remain obscure to non-experts. Choosing a right algorithm for a particular application may be difficult or impossible. The COSCH Working Group 3, led by Alain Trémau of the Jean Monnet University in Saint-Etienne, provides explanation of different algorithms that may be used in digital recording of material cultural heritage. This work is contributing to structured, ontological representation of relevant applications, known as COSCH KR. Ultimately, the COSCH KR, currently under development, is expected to contribute to a better understanding of algorithms and procedures for processing data captured through digitisation, thus facilitating informed choices of hardware and software.

The COSCH Working Group 4, led by Christian Degrigny of the Haute Ecole Arc Conservation-restauration in Neuchâtel, is concerned with conservation practice and looks at different methods of examination of the surface of historic objects. The interim report addresses a range of questions to do with the choice of the most effective techniques and equipment for a particular analysis or treatment. A range of historic objects made of different materials have been used to provide representative examples of surface properties. The suitability of a number of imaging techniques is discussed comparatively, depending on the identified properties. This information is proposed as part-content of the COSCH KR to ensure it may benefit the conservation community. Highlight Reflectance Transformation Imaging (H-RTI) receives in depth coverage in the Report Appendix, inclusive of a number of exemplary projects in this area, practical recommendations and extensive bibliography. 

The COSCH Working Group 5, Visualisation of Cultural Heritage Objects and its Dissemination, is led by Selma Rizvic of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Sarajevo. Data visualisation being relevant to all aspects of research, this COSCH Group is perhaps the most interdisciplinary in its concerns. It serves as a research forum to those who consider visualisation as a form of presentation of scientific data, as well as historians and other non-scientists involved in research into cultural heritage. The latter are interested in visualisation as a tool of historical inquiry that is expected not only accurately represent extant material objects, but also support speculative interpretations of the objects' past appearances, contexts and functions. The interim report places the emphasis on the complexity of historic visualisation of cultural heritage, based on material and non-material evidence. Visualisation methods covered include techniques as varied as 3D optical measurements and digital media specific to communication.  

The breath of backgrounds and professional experiences of COSCH participants make this interdisciplinary network truly exceptional. While COSCH formal reports and academic papers are concerned with scientific and technological research, the COSCH Bulletin offers an opportunity to portray some of COSCH people. Many COSCHers have a background in more than one discipline. Haida Laing's unconventional professional carrier, which combines astrophysics with examination of paintings, was portrayed in the COSCH e-Bulletin No. 2. In this issue Stefanie Wefers interviews Mieke Pfarr-Harfst of Fachbereich Architektur Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie in der Architektur, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany. Mieke's research into historic architecture employs 3D visualisation. Alongside visualisation practice, she is interested in theory and seeks to establish a typology of historical visualisation and typical workflows. She looks at selected past projects, conducted internationally, that she researched in the course of her study visits supported through the COST scheme of Short Scientific Missions.

Also in this issue, news from the field: an announcement of a new book on 3D recording, documentation and management of cultural heritage and a short report on a 3D survey of the Tombs at Otzing, dating back to 7-century BC, in Deggendorf, Lower Bavaria, which brings this project, by i3Mainz and the National Archaeological Museum in Munich, to the attention of English-speaking readers.


Welcome to the third issue of COSCH e-Bulletin.

Anna Bentkowska-Kafel

March 2016

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