ARCHiOx (Analysis and Recording of Cultural Heritage in Oxford) is a research and development partnership between the Factum Foundation, the Bodleian Libraries and the University of Oxford. It was launched in February 2022 and is directly linked to the ARCHiVe structure established at Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, with generous support from The Helen Hamlyn Trust.

This project was established as an open collaboration that aims to demonstrate the importance and potential use of non-contact digital technologies for the study of materials housed at the Bodleian. The Bodleian Imaging Department was already investigating the use of x-ray imaging techniques such as multi-spectral imaging (which takes visible images in blue, green, and red and combines them with an infrared image and an X-ray image of an object) to effectively reveal hints of pigment, hidden drawings or writings beneath the painted and inked surface of various materials and objects.

These methods are often used in conservation and archaeology, but Factum Foundation proposed applying them for the first time to the surface of manuscripts, as a way to reveal new discoveries around the materiality of the objects themselves. Factum Foundation pioneered the use of the Selene Photometric Stereo photographic system, developed by Jorge Cano, Matt Marshall and the R&D and Engineering team at Factum Arte, on selected items from the Bodleian’s special collections. This was complimented with a 3D recording of surface reliefs using Factum’s Lucida 3D Scanner.

The results from the pilot year exceeded every expectation in both accuracy (with information recorded in the range of 25 microns) and speed of recording. Using the Selene Scanner allowed for complex and reflective surfaces (such as copper printing plates) and fragile objects (such as palm leaf manuscripts with minute Sankrit inscriptions) to be recorded with extreme precision. It also led to new theories and discoveries when applied to the recording of maps and manuscripts.

ARCHiOx was featured on several press articles, including:
- The Guardian
The Smithsonian Magazine
National Geographic Historia
La Vanguardia
Ars Technica

On February 5, 2022, the Selene Photometric Scanner was installed at the Bodleian Libraries after four days of setting up and testing. The results, both in terms of colour and data, are remarkable. It is the first time that high-resolution data has been recorded at the Bodleian. The implications for the material culture of the book are significant and the hope is that many departments and college libraries will realise the importance of surface recording. Image and form are merged to reveal more about the objects in their care. [...] The relationship between digital recording, non-contact restoration and online/offline access has never presented more opportunities. This is a groundbreaking initiative. [...] Thanks to Helen Hamlyn and her advisors, Richard Ovenden and the great team at the Bodleian Libraries and everyone at Factum who commits so much time and energy to the understanding and preservation of cultural artefacts.
Adam Lowe, Founder of Factum Foundation

Shaded renders make it possible to view the surface texture of an original while removing their visible tone and colour. This allows for academic research from originals that contain textural details which are difficult to see and cannot be adequately recorded using traditional photographic techniques. Alternatively, the data may be used to produce 3D facsimiles from items within our collections, allowing the material nature of the original to be reproduced.
John Barrett, Bodleian’s Senior Photographer and ARCHiOx Technical Lead for the Bodleian

Several projects have been explored in detail by ARCHiOx collaborators and PhD researchers on The Conveyor: Research and development in imaging (John Barrett), Digital imaging for facsimile making (John Barrett), Finding stories in the margins (John Barrett), Women in the margins (Jessica Hodgkinson and John Barrett), Researching and digitising copper printing plates (Chiara Betti), Patterns and paintings in a 17th-century Ragamala album (John Barrett), 'Let him make a statue with a horse and a rider' (John Barrett)

ARCHiOx: A photo essay by John Barrett, with Jorge Cano and Carlos Bayod Lucini

Click to read the full report on the project

ARCHiOx: Seeing the Unseen in the Bodleian Collections

Click to watch the full conference (transcript available) on The Bodleian Libraries (BODcasts)

The Selene Photometric Stereo System

Developing new technologies

Printing plates

Recording the reflective, fine-etched surface of 18th century copper printing plates from the Rawlinson, Lister and Gough collections

Palm leaf manuscripts

Accessing unique and fragile items

The clay seals of Aršāma

Recording minute fragments and recreating a lost tool


Discovering marginal annotations and uncovering lost names

The Gough Map and the Selden Map of China

New recordings and discoveries

The Geneva Bible

Recording an intricate embroidered cover

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