Computational Imaging group and Rijksmuseum project awarded with NICAS funding

The Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science (NICAS) has announced which proposals have been awarded in the call "An Integrated Approach to the Scientific Study and Conservation of Art", organised by NWO.

Publication date: 06-02-2018

The Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science (NICAS) has announced which proposals have been awarded in the call "An Integrated Approach to the Scientific Study and Conservation of Art", organised by NWO. The total budget amounts 1.5 million euros, which is allocated for collaborations between scientists and museums with the application of data science. Eight projects receive funding , CWI’s Computational Imaging group led by Joost Batenburg is in the lead of one of the awarded projects.

The awarded project is titled “CT for Art: from Images to Patterns (IMPACT4Art)” Researchers of the CI group will be using 3D scanning techniques, such as CT scanning, in order to visualize hidden traces in art objects: finger prints of the maker that can be seen inside the clay, tool marks that tell us about the tools that have been used to craft the object, year rings inside wooden panels that can be used for dating, etc. Most objects in the collections of cultural history museums can only be observed from the outside. However, the inside of the objects, which we cannot see, often contains a wealth of information about the making of the objects and their condition.

The standard 3D scanning techniques have never been developed with these applications in mind, and often yield poor image quality when applied to cultural heritage objects. In the IMPACT4Art project, the researchers will develop novel algorithms and software that will enable them to create accurate 3D images of a broad range of museum objects, making scans within the walls of the museum. The software will automatically detect patterns that provide information about the origin and condition of the object. The research will be carried out in in an interdisciplinary team of data scientists and experts on the museum collection, led by Prof. Batenburg (CWI) and Prof. Hermens (Technical Art Historian at Rijksmuseum). By applying these techniques to various objects from the Rijksmuseum collection, the researchers will seek answers to questions such as: “we hear something rattling when we shake that statue; what is it?” and “can we discern similar finger prints in a collection of terracotta statues?”.

Part of the work will be executed in CWI’s unique FleX-Ray lab. The lab is supervised by Vici laureate Joost Batenburg, group leader of the Computational Imaging group at CWI. In this lab it is possible for the first time to look inside objects in 3D during the scanning process and to adjust or zoom in while scanning.

Joost Batenburg about the FleX Ray lab (video in dutch)