Official end of AHRC RTISAD project

Officially the AHRC RTISAD project finished on 31 May 2011. In keeping with the application we have very clear plans in place for continuing the impact of the project in the very long term. For now, here is a summary of what has been achieved to date. The RTISAD project set out to develop novel imaging tools for ancient documents and artefacts, to disseminate knowledge about these technologies to a broad audience, and to establish hubs for imaging practice in Southampton and Oxford. The project achieved all of these goals, and developed a network of partners and case studies that far exceeded the plans for the project.

The project developed and trialled several Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) systems – two dome based systems, a miniaturised dome system, a microscope capture system, a number of highlight capture systems, with multispectral capability, and a very high resolution robotic gigapixel system. In addition it explored underwater RTI capture techniques and a high speed interactive video based system in partnership with HP Labs. This has directly led to subsequent capture system design including a research dome rig for a Mellon project, a new microscope capture system and on-going work to produce a turn-key RTI system suitable for non-specialists. Overall the project has examined all previous and current research areas surrounding RTI, led a number of these, and created a set of researchers and an infrastructure that continues to innovate and publish in the field. Software developments include work on rapid processing of input images, batch processing, annotation of RTI data, capture control systems and workflows for achieving other tasks such as contouring and metric RTI comparison. This is exemplified by the continuous requests for collaboration since the project was completed in March 2011. In fact, whilst funding ended we do not consider that the project has completed but rather that it has become embedded in the work practices of Oxford scholars in Classics and Oriental Studies and the Archaeological Computing Research Group at Southampton.

The project disseminated RTI and related technologies very widely. This includes data capture, collaboration and knowledge transfer activities with x museums, many academic institutions including Cambridge, with several commercial and non-profit partners such as Cultural Heritage Imaging, HP Labs, and public bodies such as National Archives of Scotland, English Heritage, the British School at Rome, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the National Trust. In addition to local studies with bodies such as Southampton Museum Service and the Ashmolean the project has become involved in a series of high profile cultural heritage projects and sites including Catalhoyuk, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Portus and in diverse contexts, including rock art recording in Scotland and Libya. Much of this work was funded by the project solely in terms of staff and equipment, with all other costs gained through external sources.

The hub at Oxford has led to new research activities focused on Roman and Greek epigraphy and a successful funding application to the Mellon foundation for further RTI recording and open publication of cuneiform documents. At Southampton the hub has grown to include four part-time data capture experts, a large number of undergraduate, masters and PhD research topics, and further technical innovation. Above all the project has sedimented Southampton’s position as a centre for imaging and metrology of cultural heritage artefacts., and Oxford’s position as a centre for document imaging.