Tag Archives: Conservation

Revealing Galen’s Simples at UPenn… and a whole lot more

Processed image of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest at Revealing Galens Simples Workshop, Kislak Centre for Special Collections, UPenn

Processed image of the Syriac Galen Palimpsest at Revealing Galens Simples Workshop, Kislak Centre for Special Collections, UPenn

 

An article published in the New York Times on June 1, 2015, described the discovery of a Syriac manuscript that contained the oldest known translation of Galen’s On the Mixtures and Powers of Simple Drugs. Nearly a year later, scholars, scientists and imaging specialists came together for ‘Revealing Galen’s Simples‘ a workshop and symposium hosted by the Kislak Centre for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania. On Wednesday 27th April CHICC’s Carol (Heritage Imaging Manager) Tony and Gwen (Heritage Photographers) travelled to Philadelphia to take part in the event. Here is a brief overview of our time at the conference, and associated meetings, which were truly inspiring and have changed the way we think about the way we work.

Philadelphia on the horizon

Philadelphia on the horizon

We arrived at UPenn on Thursday morning and began our day of meetings with a tour of the SCETI (Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Images) digitisation suite. We met with Mick Overgard and his colleagues and discussed all things digitisation, including some skills swap sessions, they demonstrated the new Capture One Cultural Heritage software capabilities – (a vast improvement on the trial we had tested last year – thanks for the demo Andrea!) and we shared our multi-spectral imaging developments and techniques for imaging gold. A really fruitful discussion around advanced imaging techniques followed and we hope that SCETI might join AHFAP so that we can keep the conversation going. In fact we had so much to say that we had to come back after our next meeting to carry on our conversations!

The team at SCETI are very impressive, highly skilled and very friendly – we couldn’t believe that we came all the way to Philadelphia and bumped into a Liverpudlian though (hi Craig!). We were very jealous of the space the team have to work in, each photographer has their own ‘pod’ and they have given us lots of ideas about how to maximise space in our modest studio. I was also particularly impressed with the presence of a record player and a huge stack of vinyl, great idea!

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Following our meeting with SCETI we met with Dot Porter, Curator of Digital Research Services, and Mitch Fraas, Curator of Special Collections, to discuss digital collections, access, discoverability and engagement. Dot told us about different aspects of her engagement work including a workshop she recently delivered to students at Yale on how to access and download digital content and told us more about her video orientations for manuscripts (watch this space!).

We then met with data geniuses Doug Emery and Jessie Dummer to learn about OPENN, a revolutionary way of delivering Open Access image data. The data is presented in a simple structure that enables you to download an entire manuscript in high resolution, very easily using wget. All of the data on the site is in the public domain or released under Creative Commons licences as Free Cultural Works. This repository is now the home of the Archimedes Palimpsest and the Syriac Galen Palimpsest. The data is presented with long term storage and accessibility in mind, and all data is in a digital preservation format. The interface is not inspiring, but is designed so that anyone can use the data to build their own front-end. As more institutions begin to deliver their data in this way, the opportunities for digital curation are endless.

This meeting was followed by a sit down with Mike Toth, Project Manager for both the Archimedes and Syriac Galen Palimpsest Projects and Will Noel, Director, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts and Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. Following a very quick ‘get to know each other’ we began to discuss potential collaborative projects and very quickly came up with some very viable ideas. We are now, already, in the process of putting pilots for these projects in place. We will announce developments here.

These very inspiring meetings were rounded off with some refreshments at Monk’s Cafe – the home of so many beers, they have their own bible! (From left to right, Doug Emery, Meghan Hill, Bill Christen-Barry, Mike Toth, Gwen Riley Jones, Carol Burrows. Photo by Tony Richards)

After a very fruitful day of meetings, some refreshment was required!

After a very fruitful day of meetings, some refreshment was required!

Day two began with an exclusive look at the Syriac Galen Manuscript itself, with an introduction from Abigail Quandt, Head of Book and Paper Conservation at the Walters Art Museum and lead conservator on the Archimedes and the Syriac Galen Palimpsest Projects. Abigail explained both the processes for dis-binding (so flat pages of the manuscript could be imaged using multispectral imaging) and rebinding the palimpsest for this project, but also how the palimpsest was made in the first place. The pages of Galen’s text were soaked in some kind of acid, milk or lemon juice maybe, to remove the text – rather than the alternative process of scraping off the old text. After being soaked in acid, the pages were coated with a white chalky substance, which is still visible in some places, before the over-text was written. These techniques have a significant effect of the chemical make up of the manuscript, and therefore how it performs under light during multi-spectral imaging.

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Revealing Galen Simples Workshop Group Photo

Revealing Galen Simples Workshop Group Photo

This fascinating introduction was followed by a series of informal presentations and discussions amongst the scientists and the scholars, before the groups split off to do more detailed work in the afternoon. The scholars had the opportunity to work collaboratively, deciphering the text, whilst the imaging scientists compared techniques for image processing. It was very interesting to compare the benefits of different techniques (there is not one techniques which is ‘best’) and also think about what is ‘good enough’ – a question you can only really answer when imaging scientists and scholars are able to work closely together. Open Access data and spaces for cross-discipline scholarship, such as the John Rylands Research Institute, are the key to enable these types of research partnerships.

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During the afternoon workshop sessions, the CHICC team took the opportunity to take a ‘break-out’ session with Meghan [Hill] Wilson, Multi-spectral Imaging Preservation Specialist, Library of Congress. Meghan has trained in advanced camera and spectral imaging system operation, imaging processing software, database management, metadata creation, digital data storage, and object cataloging. As we are finalising our multi-spectral imaging strategy and workflows, Meghan’s advice and expertise was invaluable. We were very interested in the wide-range of applications of multi-spectral imaging, beyond only palimpsests. We invited Meghan to come to Manchester to deliver advance workflow and data management training for our multi-spectral imaging work, to deliver a seminar to share with curators, conservators and researchers the varied uses of multi-spectral imaging, and to collaborate on some of her own research work in to identifying pigments. I am very pleased to say that we have now secured funding for Meghan’s visit and we look forward to welcoming her to Manchester this summer.

On Saturday was the symposium itself, you can view the list of speakers here. The talks included 3 cross-discipline speakers from the University of Manchester, Peter Pormann, Director of the John Rylands Research Institute and Professor of Classics and Graeco-Arabic Studies on The Final Frontier: Galen’s Syriac Versions and Graeco-Arabic Translation Technique, Dr. Bill Sellers, Faculty of Life Sciences on Working with the Data and Dr Corneliu Arsene, Faculty of Humanities on his new techniques for Revealing the Palimpsest. In addition to the Manchester speakers, we heard from a range of historians, scholars, scientists, conservators and data managers in a truly cross-discipline discussion on the subject. There was also another chance to view the manuscript, in the somewhat more historic setting of the Henry Charles Lea Library.

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In amongst all this work we did get a little time to see some sights, starting with the Liberty Bell (see photographers at work), but somehow the work always seemed to carry on in the bar…! We also came across a statue of ‘Barry’ – who it turns out is a distant relative of our colleague Bill Christens-Barry, picked up some fashion tips for Jamie – who was back at the ranch. Met Millie Emery, Doug Emery’s very gorgeous bulldog! And finally ran up the Rocky steps (well one of us did) in a not so sunny Philadelphia! We had an absolutely fantastic trip, it was so valuable to be able to attend this conference first hand and be involved in conversations with the full team of people that have pioneered these important techniques. We have returned to the UK fired up and ready to develop our work on to the next stage. So a big thanks to the John Rylands Research Institute and Professor Peter Pormann’s AHRC funded project ‘The Syriac Galen Palimpsest: Galen’s On Simple Drugs and the Recovery of Lost Texts through Sophisticated Imaging Techniques’, to all at UPenn, and everyone involved in the symposium. And a special thanks to Mike Toth for his continued excellent work in bringing all of these people together.

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Spectral Imaging testing at The National Library of Scotland

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and in UV light (right)

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and at 365nm UV light with image inverted (right)

On 2nd July the CHICC photographers travelled to Edinburgh for some Multispectral Imaging testing on some George Combe letterbooks at the National Library of Scotland. Francine Millard of the NLS writes:

George Combe (1788-1858) was an Edinburgh lawyer who was among the first converts to phrenology. This was a science which believed that people’s characters could be read from the bumps in their skulls.

The National Library of Scotland holds a remarkable collection of George Combe’s papers from 1804 to 1872. The collection begins with his apprenticeship as a clerk to Writers to the Signet and charts his promotion of phrenology which included co-founding the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1820 and the works Elements of Phrenology (1824) and The Constitution of Man (1828). Combe’s outgoing and incoming correspondence document his efforts to spread the causes of phrenology, secular education, and criminal and prison reform.

 

Combe’s letterbooks contain a large proportion of his replies to his brother, Andrew Combe, who was also a fervent supporter of phrenology, and to those seeking his help and advice both in Britain and America. Combe’s replies were copied by wet letter press copying (or wet-transfer) and some pages in these books have now faded to the point of invisibility.

 

The National Library of Scotland teamed up with CHICC in July to see if multi-spectral imaging would be able to render Combe’s words visible. These tests would inform the Library on what approach to take to preserve the Combe papers through digitisation.

To find out more, watch this short film of the work in action:

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Rochester Cathedral’s “Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions” project wins £3.55 million in Heritage Lottery Fund support

The original storage box for the Textus Roffensis

The original storage box for the Textus Roffensis

 

The project will use the cathedral’s currently inaccessible and nationally significant archives as a catalyst for the development of exhibitions and workshops in the crypt and library.  These architecturally impressive spaces will be sympathetically opened up to allow access for all. The Textus Roffensis, older and considered by some to be a more significant document than the Magna Carta, is currently locked away for safety in the archives of Medway Council.  The project will make the Textus the jewel in the crown of an imaginative and dynamic treasury. For more info click here.

The CHICC team would like to send a huge congratulations to the team at Rochester Cathedral, on what promises to be a very exciting project!

(see below for a selection of image taken by CHICC at Rochester Cathedral – click on the thumbnails to see larger images)

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St Christopher Woodcut undergoes the National Gallery’s Infrared Imaging

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St. Christopher Woodcut being imaged using Osiris camera

    On Tuesday 15th January 2013 the Rylands were very pleased to welcome Rachel Billinge, from the National Gallery, and Ed Potten, Head of Rare Books at the University of Cambridge for some very exciting imaging.

Rachel brought with her an Osiris camera for high-resolution infrared reflectography. The camera was developed by Opus Instruments based on a prototype that was designed and built by the National Gallery‘s Science and Conservation departments. The Osiris camera records infrared light wavelengths from 900-1700 nanometres, reaching further in to the infrared light spectrum than a standard CCD sensor could. The camera takes many images of an item and automatically stiches each ’tile’ together, saving hours of post-processing time.

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St. Christopher Woodcut being imaged using Osiris camera

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View of Osiris capture as it happens, the camera automatically stitched together each ’tile’ to create a full high-resolution image of the page

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Rachel Billinge from the National Gallery working on a capture of the St. Christopher Woodcut using an Osiris camera

Rachel produced images of the St. Christopher Woodcut, in a bid to produce a legible image of the watermark to confirm, or otherwise, the dating of the Woodcut. The St Christopher woodcut, 1423, is the earliest dated example of European printing. It is preserved as an endpaper in a manuscript dated 1417 from Bohemia, the ‘Laus Virginis’. Rachel also imaged the Annunciation Woodcut, although no watermark is believed to be present in this print.

Members of staff from across the Library were on hand to support and analyse the images as they were produced. We await the results with bated breath… we will share the findings with you in a follow up post as soon as we possibly can.

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Analysing the results… watch this space!

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Rehousing Greek Papyri

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Greek 19 & 20 are 2nd and 1st century respectively papyri fragments which had been rendered illegible by surface salt ‘bloom’. The items were required for study by Dr Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Ancient History in The School of Arts Histories and Cultures. Roberta asked us what could be done to enable study of the pieces (Greek 20 is in 3 parts).

Advice about the reasons behind the salt bloom and apparent high moisture content (moisture droplets were visible on the inside of the glass) was sought from Bridget Leach papyrus conservator at the British Museum.

After consultation a treatment plan was proposed by Collection Care to re-house the fragments.

Prior to the re-housing work taking place, the Imaging Team were approached to see if they could capture images of the moisture and also to see if there was any way the text could be made more legible using digital technology.

The papyri fragments were digitised using the IQ180 and 120mm macro lens to obtain the highest quality images. Using careful focus control, it was possible to clearly see the water droplets as soon as the images appeared on the computer screen. We experimented with the levels and contrast settings and were able to very quickly render the text legible (however it must be noted that these adjustments produce inaccurate colour information).

The papyri were successfully re-housed using techniques used during a separate Arabic papyrus re-housing project.

When the two sheets of old glass were carefully separated the salt bloom remained on the surface of the glass. Samples of the bloom have been taken which will be sent for scientific analysis. We expect it to be sodium chloride. We suspect the high moisture content in the original glazing was probably due to “wet” paste used to adhere the leather strips which were used to seal the edges of the glass.

The fragments were then placed onto a sheet of UV filtered conservation grade glass, the edges of which are lined with 10mm wide acid-free paper of similar thickness to the fragments. This will ensure the glass is not pressing directly onto the fragments.

2mm wide strips of Japanese tissue are used to ‘tag’ the fragments onto the glass using a reversible adhesive.

The sandwich is then sealed around the edges using Tyvek tape and new identifying labels are adhered to the outside of the glass.

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Rylands Haggadah, Hebrew MS 6

Happy New Year!

We are beginning the year with some exciting news about Rylands Hebrew MS 6.

The Rylands Haggadah has now been digitised in full following painstaking conservation work carried out by Steve Mooney. This manuscript, a Passover Haggadah (service book) is one of the Rylands’ most famous items, it has been described as ‘one of the finest of its kind’.

Modern illustrated editions of the Passover Haggadah are still common today, however this manuscript was produced in fourteenth-century Spain, around the time that it became the popular practice to illuminate the Passover Haggadah. The Sephardi Hebrew text is prefaced by a series of full-page colour illustrations of the story of Exodus.

Here is a sneak preview of some of the illustrations of the story of Exodus, and watch this space for more news on how to view this extraordinary book online. 

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