A Research & Development collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and the Factum Foundation

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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 Photometric Stereo recording started with the Rawlinson collection of printing plates and the Sanskrit palm-leaf manuscripts. This will be followed by the re-recording of the Gough map and the 3D digitisation of the Aramaic Arshama Seals. Suggestions are already emerging about the importance of this process for finding and visualising palimpsests and recording pre-Colombian manuscripts in the collection.

The relationship between digital recording, non-contact restoration and online/offline access has never presented more opportunities. Hopefully, it will result in an addition of high-resolution recording as part of the IIIF protocols. Factum is convinced that the photometric-stereo system will rapidly become a central part of digital recording in museums and libraries around the world.

New technologies seldom emerge fully formed, but after over 20 years of working to record the subtle surfaces of different objects, we built this system to be fast, objective and easy to use.

This is a groundbreaking initiative. I can’t wait to see the results that emerge over the next 12 months. 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

Jorge Cano and John Barrett, Senior Photographer at the Bodleian © Matt Marshall for Factum Foundation

Jorge Cano installing the Selene inside the Imaging Lab at the Bodleian Libraries © Matt Marshall for Factum Foundation

The full ARCHiOx team at the inauguration event © Courtesy of the Bodleian Libraries

Carlos Bayod Lucini and John Barrett testing the Selene on a copper plate © Matt Marshall for Factum Foundation

The Selene during the scanning process © Matt Marshall for Factum Foundation

ARCHiOx (Analysing and Recording Cultural Heritage in Oxford) is an exciting new project partnership between the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and the Factum Foundation, generously funded by The Helen Hamlyn Trust. The project will enable the practical transfer of knowledge and technology from the Factum Foundation to the Bodleian, including the permanent transfer of equipment and software to the Libraries.

The Bodleian Libraries are the integrated research libraries of the University of Oxford, world-renowned as among the leading repositories of the written record of civilisation. Founded in 1602 by Sir Thomas Bodley, the Bodleian has acted as a library of legal deposit for over 400 years, and its collections form one of the world’s most important coherent bodies of documentary heritage, including items inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register. The Bodleian Libraries are committed to enabling access to these rich collections through digitization and delivery of collections information via a number of digital platforms and resources.

ARCHiOX will provide a free exchange of knowledge and approaches between the academic and technical team at the Bodleian and the Factum Foundation experts as we explore and demonstrate the potential of applying non-contact digital technologies to the study of materials held by the Bodleian Libraries. This pilot 12-month project will be an extension of proven techniques to enable innovative research, preservation, and discovery.

ARCHiOx will initially focus on the recording of marks on selected items from the Bodleian Libraries’ unique special collections, using 2.5D scanning of relief surfaces with the prototype version of the Photometric Stereo photographic system (developed by Jorge Cano, Matt Marshall and the team at Factum Arte) as well as 3D scanning of relief surfaces using the Lucida 3D Scanner (conceived and developed by artist-engineer Manuel Franquelo with Factum Arte) In addition to providing new research material for scholars and identifying future avenues for investigation, the aim is also to explore the delivery of the 3D data outputs via the Bodleian’s IIIF services thereby identifying pathways for delivering future content. ARCHiOx will therefore explore and include high-resolution recording in 3D and colour, elements of digital restoration, data storage and management, research into the inclusion of 3D data in the IIIF framework, and the sharing of data and online engagement with 3D information. It is envisaged that some of the outputs of the project will, where appropriate, be delivered via Digital Bodleian, the Libraries’ flagship platform for digitized image collections.

ARCHiOx - Seeing the Unseen in the Bodleian Collections, December 5th 2022
© Bodleian Libraries and The Helen Hamlyn Trust

Read more on the project on this article by John Barrett

The Selene Stereo Photometric System © Matt Marshall for Factum Foundation

Colour information on copper plate from the Bodleian Libraries, acquired with the Photometric Scanner © Factum Foundation

Shaded render of the surface of a copper plate, acquired with the Photometric Scanner © Factum Foundation

Colour information of a copper plate from the Bodleian Libraries, acquired with the Photometric Scanner © Factum Foundation

Shaded render of the surface of a copper plate from the Bodleian Libraries, acquired with the Photometric Scanner © Factum Foundation

Colour layer of one of the palm-leaf manuscripts © Bodleian Libraries

Shaded render © Bodleian Libraries

Detail of the colour from one of the palm-leaf manuscripts © Bodleian Libraries

Detail of the shaded render © Bodleian Libraries



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