ARCHiVe aims to become a centre of international excellence in innovation, creating both hardware and software for recording, archiving, interpreting and transmitting the world's cultural heritage.
Areal view of ARCHiVe's office space at Fondazione Giorgio Cini © ARCHiVe
In its first year, ARCHiVe was shortlisted by Apollo Magazine for its Digital Innovation of the Year Award and has since then been mentioned regularly in local and regional newspapers (Corriere del Veneto, Corriere di Verona, Amadeus, La Nuova) as well as national (Il Sole 24 Ore, Il Giornale dell’Arte) and international (The Art Newspaper, Apollo Magazine, 24heures, Bon pour la Tête) media outlets.
All the tools developed in ARCHiVe are made available for institutions involved in the fields of cultural heritage study, protection and conservation and the partners are constantly concerned with improving the efficiency, effectiveness and innovation of their technologies, while keeping up with the fast-changing world of big data and their analysis. Among the technologies developed and employed by ARCHiVe are the Replica Recto/Verso Scanner and the Portable Manuscript Scanner (which both use the ManuCapture open source software to digitise manuscripts). These non-contact technologies are integrated with Factum Foundation’s staples: Lucida 3D Scanner, photogrammetry, panoramic composite photography, LiDAR scanning and structured white-light scanners.
Furthermore, the non-contact high-resolution recording techniques used and developed by ARCHiVe enhance the field of digital restoration, a fast-growing application of digital technologies. In fact, they provide high-resolution data required by conservators and restorers for in-depth studies and understanding of the physical nature of the objects. They also allow the gathering of fragments of single objects that were dispersed over time and the rematerialisation of these objects in digital and physical form as facsimiles.
A screenshot of ManuCapture, a free open source software developed by Factum Foundation © Factum Foundation
In 2019, for the publication of Antonio Canova. Atelier (Marsilio Editore), the Honorable Gianluca Vacca, Undersecretary, Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities made the following statement:
The desire to add value to our artistic heritage through the digitization of works that, for safety and conservation reasons, cannot be put on display to the public encourages us to find new ways of accessing our cultural heritage: modern channels of use and models for enhancement and protection, in addition to new opportunities for study and research. The conscious use of digital technology is an extraordinary tool for the promotion of knowledge, the sharing of learning and cultural heritage, and, at the same time, the creation of new opportunities for employment and economic and social development. I am firmly convinced of the importance of valorizing and putting into place those worthwhile experiences that are already active in Italy, but which are too often realized in isolation. For this reason, as a Ministry, we are working on the creation of a single control room, so that all digitalization projects can be set within the same framework. We need to think of a strategic plan centred on sharing and exchanging knowledge and skills. A system capable of ensuring maximum efficiency for an increasingly high-quality service. It is a matter of putting together a systematic and structured network in order to guarantee the full protection and development of our artistic heritage. The model that has been launched at ARCHiVe (The Analysis and Recording of Cultural Heritage in Venice) by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in collaboration with Factum Foundation and EPFL brings together philology, recording and the analysis of data. This mix of knowledge and technology is urgently required. With the Atelier Canova project, led by Chiara Casarin together with Adam Lowe of the Factum Foundation, the Bassano del Grappa Musei Civici are promoting this development and, through the digitalization of the works of Antonio Canova, finally making an artistic heritage that is worthy of attention available to the public.
Students from Columbia University's GSAPP in front of Factum Arte's facsimile of The Wedding at Cana by Veronese, in the palladian refectory of San Giorgio Maggiore © Carlos Bayod for Factum Foundation
ARCHiVe is operating through four different, yet complementary strands:
The Lucida 3D Scanner recording the Mappa Turchesca © Factum Foundation
Understanding the right technology for the right task is critical in every project. While, currently, the core skills are high-resolution photogrammetry, composite photography (colour, X-Ray, infrared, ultraviolet) and the Lucida 3D laser scanner, an engineering workshop is responsible of the adaptation of existing equipment and development of new technologies, such as RTI and photometric stereo, to best fit the needs of art and cultural heritage under all their forms. This will eventually allow ARCHiVe to systematically obtain the highest possible quality of data.
Point-cloud render of Antonio Canova's Three Graces © Factum Foundation
In fact, as the algorithms get more precise and the data becomes freely available, new technologies are redefining the relationship between the past and the present and are opening up new epistemological and methodological perspectives for art-historical research into cultural heritage.
(Detail) Render of Niccolo dell'Arca's Lamentation over the Dead Christ, recorded in the church of Santa Maria della Vita, Bologna © Factum Foundation and Genus Bononiae
The centre works on ensuring safe and secure digital systems to migrate, store in multiple locations, access and use various types of data without expensive proprietary software. But it also focuses on the storage of digital data in physical form capable of withstanding extended periods of time without electricity.
Columbia University's GSAPP students during the 2019 field training at the Church of San Giovanni di Malta in Venice © Otto Lowe for Factum Foundation
This approach ensures local guardianship and has the potential to generate income at a local level. These training programmes take a step further compared to any other classical educational programmes as they are a hub gathering people from many different boards such as the growing community of electronic engineers, software writers, IT specialists, archivists, cataloguers, conservators and students from a wide range of disciplines.
The centre bases its training programme on a practical 'learning by doing approach', thus allowing the participants to acquire an intricate knowledge of fieldwork practice. Theory and practice are oriented to carry out actual projects of Cultural Heritage digitisation.
Training are structured around three phases of digital data management:
1. Data gathering. The first phase covers on-site recording of artifacts:
a) 2D/3D high-resolution recording systems: development, adaptation and use.
b) Combination of various systems to obtain meaningful information.
c) Methodologies for working with fragile objects and/or in sensitive sites.
a) Short-term/long-term digital storage and metadata.
b) Management of high-resolution files or databases.
c) Dissemination and access to the information.
a) 2D/3D digital restoration: image processing, modelling, etc.
b) Data visualization and interactive applications: mixed-reality application, navigators, etc.
c) Preparation of digital data for rematerialisation: high-resolution prototyping.
Factum Foundation’s book The Aura in the Age of Digital Materiality (Silvana Editoriale, 2020) was published for the exhibition La Riscoperta di un Capolavoro (The Revealed Masterpiece) at Palazzo Fava in Bologna, Italy (May 18th 2020 - January 10th 2021). Many of ARCHiVe's initiatives are featured in essays by Adam Lowe, Rashmi Gajare, Frédéric Kaplan, Isabella de Lenardo and Guendalina Damone.