At a time when we are all being forced to think hard about what we value, how, and why, Factum Foundation and The Art Newspaper have launched a series of discussions on the role of digital technologies in the preservation of cultural heritage. The three, 80-minute, online discussions brought together contributors to Factum Foundation’s new book, The Aura in The Age of Digital Materiality – Rethinking Preservation in the Shadow of an Uncertain Future, with other experts from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. The discussions considered the increasing prominence of high-resolution recordings of cultural heritage and their place in the display spaces of the present and the future.
The discussions are available to watch here.
ArtTech Forum 2019, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice
On 24th September, Adam Lowe spoke about the ARCHiVe initiative at the 2019 ArtTech Forum. The objective of the forum is to bring together an international community of scientists, engineers, analysts, investors and representatives of the vast field of arts and culture, incubating debate and discussion on the links between technologies, heritage preservation and the archiving of historical data.
The title of Adam Lowe's talk was ‘ARCHiVe - Digital Artisans in Interesting Times’.
On 23rd September, Adam Lowe and Charlotte Skene Catling were in conversation with Jonathan Jones at Spencer House to discuss the exhibition Madame de Pompadour in the Frame, on show until Spring 2020 at Waddesdon Manor, and to explore in more detail themes and possibilities arising from Factum Foundation’s facsimiles and recreations of artworks.
The wide-ranging discussion covered recording projects from Luxor to Nigeria, the digital restoration of damaged objects, and the extent to which digital technology can be used to ‘resurrect’ lost or destroyed artworks.
Audience members also had the opportunity to compare the original and facsimile of Boucher’s small portrait of Madame de Pompadour, which had been brought up from the exhibition at Waddesdon for the occasion.
Can digital technologies for capturing and reproducing reality deepen our understanding and enrich our experience of built heritage? Can these new technologies not only improve the daily practice of preservation but effectively inform a new paradigm of cultural heritage? The 2019 Fitch Colloquium aimed to explore the future of Historic Preservation through the lens of experimental approaches to digital documentation, analysis, interpretation, archiving, sharing, visualisation and re-materialisation of data.
The symposium examined cutting-edge processes involving the development and application of digital tools to projects of all scales, including high-resolution 3D scanning, gaming, computer-based visual pattern recognition, blockchain encryption, behavioural geo-tracking or interactive projection mapping among others. Carlos Bayod Lucini, head of Factum´s Lucida 3D Scanning department and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP, focused on the application of non-contact and non-invasive 3D recording methods as a new approach to the preservation of cultural heritage.
The Cultural Heritage of the MENA region, composed of thousands of documented and un-documented archaeological sites, is at stake due to looting, inundations caused by dam construction, development and expanding agriculture.
On December 6th, the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East & North Africa (EAMENA) Project, invited Factum Foundation's director Adam Lowe and photogrammetry specialist Otto Lowe, to talk jointly with Art Jameel and the Royal Commission of Al Ula at the Protecting the Past Conference. The three institutions discussed the importance of digital recording in cultural heritage preservation as well as their new common project.
This new initiative, generously funded by Jacob Rothschild Foundation is a series of training programs, the first of which ran this past October, 2018 in Al Ula with sixteen local Saudis who received training in data capture and processing, before putting their newly acquired skills to use, recording at three sites. This pilot session resulted in the successful capturing of 74,000 images and over 1.29TB of data.
This event was part of the ‘Re-‘ Network; a series of talks across the 2018-19 academic that are hosted at Cambridge University's Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities. These seminars hosted by various academics aims to explore three different 'Re-' topics, resources, repetition, and reproduction; this installment, entitled Beyond Originals and Copies, focused on the latter and was led by Factum Arte director Adam Lowe alongside Simon Schaffer, professor at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge.
The series of talks is convened by Clare Foster, British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at CRASSH, Cambridge; and Margherita Laera, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre at the University of Kent, Canterbury.
The Cast Courts at the V&A reopened this November following a long refurbishment. When they opened in 1873, their purpose was to display accurate copies of architectural and sculptural masterpieces from around the world. The cast copies were instrumental in 19th century art education and are now regarded as important objects in their own right. Over the course of the 20th century the casts also acquired significant conservation value when a number of the original objects were lost or damaged - for example, Trajan’s Column in Rome has suffered from the corrosive effects of pollution. However, cast making itself has long been considered a destructive technique and in the 21st century new non-contact technologies are finding their way into the Cast Courts.
For the reopening of the galleries, Factum Foundation, in collaboration with the Peri Foundation and with the support of the Dagestan Aul Museum Complex (Makhachkala), has created a copy of an 18th century tombstone from the remote mountain village of Kala-Koreysh, Dagestan. The tombstone was recorded using photogrammetry – a photographic 3D recording technique that can result in high-resolution data – and digitally carved in limestone to produce a beautiful object with material correspondence to the original.
On this same occasion, three statues created by Factum Arte, resulting from the recording of Antonio Canova's 'Paolina Borghese as Venus Victrix' in 2013, have been officially unveiled. Whilst the bright white edition is a 3D stereolithographic printed resin painted white, the other two versions were both cast glass and plaster using moulds produced directly from a 3D print, and will permanently form part of the historical collection.
© courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
An exploration of the birth, lives, and afterlives of objects. The Case Western Reserve University hosted interdisciplinary conversations about how we interpret impermanence and what it means to our communities through works of art. The symposium was co-sponsored by the Case Western Reserve University Department of Art History and Art, the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities and the Cleveland Museum of Art. On this occasion, Adam Lowe gave the talk "Digital Archiving and Re-Materialisation: The Past in the present" on September 26.
On 13 Sept., Gabriella Belli, overall Director of the Venice Municipal Museums network, was in conversation with Factum Arte's director Adam Lowe and Giberto Arrivabene, glass designer, who has adapted the age-old techniques of lost-wax casting to create glass replicas of the masterpieces of the past.
The question of historic and modern copying was also explored in a special project – A World of Fragile Parts – curated by the Victoria & Albert Museum, at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Learn more.
Images courtesy of GIBERTO with Fond. Musei Civici di Venezia
From 28 June to 4 July 2018, Factum Arte returned to Masterpiece London to display art productions made in collaboration with a selection of artists and galleries. Alongside this, Factum Arte was awarded with the 2018 Masterpiece Presents Commission. The additional stand exhibited Marina Abramovic's sculptural artworks in a cutting-edge display designed by the award-winning, London and Madrid based architectural practice Skene Catling de La Peña. During the event in the Lecture Theatre, Adam Lowe gave the talk Making Articulate Objects: Digital Mediation & Transformation.
The Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, the Fundación Gondra Barandiarán and the Universidad de Deusto presented the first edition of the summer course "Museographies. Ways of seeing art". Taking place on June 29, this 3-day course offered an intensive academic programme directed by Miguel Zugaza. Its principal aim is to analyse different issues relating to new trends in current museography, a term used in this context to encompass the group of practices and new narratives – or "ways of seeing", to cite John Berger's phrase from his celebrated essay – which are employed in museums in their role as spaces for the conservation, display, study and dissemination of cultural goods. On 29 June, Adam Lowe, founder of the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation was present for the talk: Applying Technology: Preserving the Past… Informing the Present.
Last year, Factum Foundation was part of the The Reproduction of Art and Cultural Heritage Project (ReACH) initiative by the V&A in partnership with the Peri Charitable Foundation, launched at UNESCO in May 2017.
Factum Foundation is a member of the core research group whose undertaking resulted in the signing of a declaration at the V&A on 8th December 2017 in London. The new Declaration has been signed by 20 major museums and foundations invested in the use of digital technology to preserve, protect and distribute our shared cultural heritage. As part of the Research Partners board, Adam Lowe gave a talk on 22nd June at the Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.
With rapid advances in modern documentation and interpretive technologies such as scanning, visualization, and Virtual and Augmented Reality, how must our study of the past and its material legacy adapt? The Past is Present is an interdisciplinary event bringing together scholars, students, technology innovators, and cultural heritage workers in conversation about new methods and tools which are shaping their work. The symposium on April 5th will feature scholarly presentations on topics such as Documenting Archaeology and Architecture; Accessing history through Drawings, Plans, Casts, and Copies; and Academic, Public, and Pedagogical Priorities for the 21st Century.
Adam Lowe presented the exhibition "Scanning Seti. The Regeneration of a Pharaonic Tomb" at the Antikenmuseum Basel on October 28th, 2017. He explains the processes and vision that animated his exhibition design.
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, introduced Adam Lowe talk "Recording, Archiving and Replication of Cultural Heritage" at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington. This public talk was part of ReACH, an initiative promoted by the V&A and the Peri Foundation to look at digital recording and replication 150 years after Henry Cole´s Convention.
Guendalina Damone presented the work of Factum Arte and Factum Foundation at the Wired Next Festival in Milan in May 2017.
Factum Arte´s Carlos Bayod spoke at the Cultura Inteligente: Nuevas Tecnologías Digitales para el Sector Cultural conference at the Fundación Telefónica. The conference focused on the latest technologies for heritage preservation. Carlos Bayod discussed the 3D recording systems developed and used at Factum Arte, particularly the Lucida 3D Scanner, photogrammetry, and their uses for digital restoration. Click here to watch a video of the conference.
Carlos Bayod speaking at the conference Smart Culture
Adam Lowe and Tarek Waly discussed Hassan Fathy´s legacy as well as an exciting project to revitalise the mudbrick building tradition that inspired his approach to architecture at the conference Images of Egypt Printing the Past. Architecture, Print Culture, and Uses of the Past in Modern Europe. They presented the restoration of Stoppelaëre House and its refurbishment as a 3D scanning, archiving and training centre on February 17th 2017. Hassan Fathy´s Village in Gourna is in poor condition and needs a concerted effort to save it. The Oslo School of Architecture and Design is running a project to focus the attention on Fathy important work.
On January 12 2017, Adam Lowe, director of Factum Arte, historian Jerry Brotton, and leading artist Grayson Perry, participated in a conference on maps, art and technology at the British Library in London. Lowe and Brotton have collaborated extensively on many projects - among these, they have re-envisaged the Hereford Mappa Mundi as a 3D facsimile, and have used digital data of the ocean’s floor to create a different take on the world map in Terraforming. Both Lowe and Brotton have also worked with Grayson Perry, who often refers to maps in his tapestries and ceramics.
The 5th Saint Petersburg International Cultural Forum (1-3 December 2016) gathers Russian and international representatives from the cultural sector for a series of public and professional discussions and events, bringing the latest projects, ideas and technologies to the fore. Adam Lowe presented on originality and authenticity in the context of recording and rematerialising cultural heritage. His talk took place within a framework, provided by the Ziyavudin Magomedov Charitable Peri Foundation, focussed on demonstrating the positive role that three-dimensional records and displays can have within traditional museological practices. Bill Sherman, Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and William Owen, from Made by Many talked in the same section.
Image (left to right): Polina Filippova, CEO of the Peri Foundation; Ilya Doronchenkov, Dean of the History of Art Department in the European University of St Petersburg; Bill Sherman, Head of Research at the Victoria & Albert Museum; Adam Lowe, Director of Factum Arte & Founder of the Factum Foundation; William Owen, CSO of Made by Many; Makach Musaev, Director of the Institute of History, Archaeology & Ethnography in Daghestan.
Director of Factum Arte, Adam Lowe, was invited to take part in the Beyond Caravaggio conference which took place at the National Gallery in London on November 17th. Adam Lowe focused his talk on Factum Arte´s recreation of Caravaggio´s Nativity with Saint Francis and Saint Lawrence. The painting, stolen in 1969 from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo at the heart of Palermo, was given back to the people of Palermo in 2015 in the form of a reproduction made from a single image of the original before it was stolen.
A roundtable discussion hosted by Adam Lowe - director of Factum Arte & founder of the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation - was held at Columbia University on October 27th. Lowe was joined by Lisa Ackerman (Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of World Monuments Fund), Dietmar Offenhuber (Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in the departments of Art & Design and Public Policy), Roger Michel (Executive Director of the Oxford University based Institute for Digital Archaeology) and Holly Rushmeier (Professor of Computer Science at Yale University). The debate raised a great number of issues pertinent to the modern approach to the preservation of cultural heritage through the application of non-contact and non-invasive 3D recording methods across the world. Lowe was made professor at Columbia University last March where he teaches the Heritage Preservation Program at the Advanced Technology Studio with head of Factum´s Lucida 3D Scanning department, Carlos Bayod.
Director of Factum Arte & founder of the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, Adam Lowe, was invited to take part in a discussion on the importance of three-dimensional documentation of cultural heritage sites around the world. The symposium, which took place at the U.S. Institute of Peace, gathered scholars, museum professionals and policymakers to explore what we have learned from recent wars about the role of cultural heritage. The day-long symposium aimed to improve the public´s understanding of how cultural heritage initiatives can contribute to peace: how such initiatives can work to empower marginalized women and communities, how they can strengthen the reconciliation, civic engagement and economic bases needed to build peace in the shadow of violent conflicts and so on. Lowe focused his talk on the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative, specifically on the work Factum´s Foundation is carrying out at Stoppelaere´s House. Funding for this symposium, and for the Smithsonian exhibition was provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development and took place on October 24th.
In September, the Egyptology department at the American University in Cairo invited Factum Arte’s Aliaa Ismail (on-site project manager for the Theban Necropolis Preservation Initiative to give a lecture on Factum Foundation’s passion, dedication and expertise in the field of preservation of cultural heritage through the application of digital technology. In her lecture: From Madrid to Seti: A Journey of Heritage and Technology, Aliaa discussed the Foundation´s work in Luxor, recounting her own involvement and journey in the digitisation of the tomb of Seti I: from the building of a 3D scanner, to its use in the tomb, to its impact on the local community. The talk was centered around the recording systems employed in the project, and the possibilities, both human and economic, that may arise when digital technology meets preservation of historically and culturally significant sites. Aliaa Ismail also communicated Factum Foundation´s work at Stoppelaere´s House, an initiative that will see a disused building turn into a new training centre for locals to be trained to record their own heritage, which will be achieved using 3D scanning technologies, particularly the Lucida 3D scanner which has been built at Factum Arte according to Manuel Franquelo´s design.
This program has grabbed the attention of many of the students and their responses to the lecture has been overwhelming positive.
Adam Lowe has been appointed Adjunct Professor of Historic Preservation at Columbia University's GSAPP in New York. Together with Factum Arte's Carlos Bayod, he is teaching the Advanced Technology Studio in Autumn 2016 for the Masters programme on Historic Preservation.
The approach to the application of digital technology to art and architecture preservation in this Studio is both theoretical and practical. It aims to provide the students with the knowledge and tools to understand the potential of high resolution recording. The course is structured in four complementary blocks: surface 3D scanning (Lucida); multilayered files; photogrammetry and 3D processing; digital restoration.
The digital remaking of the hermitage of San Baudelio has been proposed as a case study to put in practice the skills learned during the course. The paintings that were removed from the church and are now at the Met Cloisters were recorded with the students, thanks to the collaboration between the Factum Foundation, The Metropolitan Museum and Columbia University. The course trip brought the students to Spain, to carry out field work on the hermitage, recording in 3D the interior with various systems.
One of the most relevant outcomes of this research will be to establish a direct comparison between one of the paintings in New York and the wall´s surface at the hermitage where it once belonged.
Factum Arte was joined by 100 members of the ‘Friends of the Israel Museum’ association on Saturday 6th of February 2016. The visit was organised as part of their involvement in the Israel Museum International Executive Committee, whose meetings took place in Madrid.
Adam Lowe speaking at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris together with archaeologists Michel al-Maqdissi and Ali Cheikhmous
On the 14th of January 2016 the Musée Quai Branly held the conference Le rôle des archéologues et les moyens technologiques which took the form of a dialogue between Adam Lowe and Syrian archaeologists Michel al-Maqdissi and Ali Cheikhmous, who have been working to safeguard and preserve Syria’s archaeological heritage. The conversation covered many aspects of the protection of heritage and the application of technology. It was a very sad evening full of shocking images and stories - but there were seeds of optimism and some themes started to emerge which could lead to positive actions: What kind of recording is needed? Where is it needed? How should it be funded? How should funds be allocated? Is the rebuilding of destroyed sites a meaningful form of preservation? How do archaeologists get access to the funds that are urgently needed after a war is over and before the rebuilding of cities like Aleppo begins? The debate has begun and the results will bear witness to the decisions that are made. It is possible to do something meaningful. Factum Arte’s 3D scanning and facsimiles are evidence of the positive impact technology can have on the conservation of endangered heritage.
Adam Lowe talking at the 2and3D Photography conference at Rijksmuseum, 15–16 April 2015
The event, which took place at Washington's National Archives Building, was hosted by CyArk, a non-for-profit organization devoted to the long range 3D documentation of heritage sites. Whereas the work carried out by CyArk and its partners puts the focus on mid- and long-range 3D laser scanning of buildings and monuments as a way to preserve and disseminate them 'virtually', Carlos introduced Factum Foundation's approach to the conservation of works of art through high resolution short-range recording. This approach is possible thanks to the Lucida 3D scanner, the system designed and developed by the artist Manuel Franquelo and built for the Factum Foundation to record the surface of paintings and shallow-relief objects with their colour, tone, brilliance and material.
Carlos described Factum Foundation's dedication to creating permanent, precise records of the surface of important objects, scanning their texture so that the object is digitally held in such a way as it can be used for research, for pre-intervention analysis and to monitor any changes in their surface and so that the raw files can be carried to future generations. This technique also allows, when appropriate, to physically re-materialize the objects in a way that they can be re-created in the form of exact facsimiles to actively help in their preservation. As was pointed out by CyArk's founders Ben and Barbara Kacyra following Carlos' presentation, "Lucida's short-range 3D scanning makes it possible to obtain such useful information out of surfaces that for us are just flat".
SPEAP (Programme d'experimentation en arts e politique) studio visit programme to Factum Arte. March, 2013.
Conference at Tudela's Cathedral, February 2013.