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Thursday, May 14 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Textiles) Lights, Camera, Archaeology: Documenting Archaeological Textile Impressions with Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI)

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This paper investigates the feasibility, effectiveness, and overall value of Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) in documenting archaeological textile impressions. RTI is a computational imaging technique that relights an object from any direction and mathematically enhances surface detail. It is an excellent way to document textured surfaces. At present, archeological textile impressions are documented via digital photography. The ability to manipulate the light source and enhance surface attributes with RTI facilitates identification of important textile features from documentation of textile impressions. This is especially important for ephemeral material, like archaeological soil impressions; the original material is often destroyed during ongoing excavation, and documentation becomes the sole record of the object. Additionally, RTI is valuable from a preventive conservation perspective; the interactive RTI files provide an alternative way to study textile impressions that eliminates object handling during examination that is likely to cause damage. Primarily, this paper compares RTI and digital photography for documentation of ten varied textile impressions. Secondarily, it examines three RTI set-ups—a dome, an indoor highlight RTI (H-RTI), and an outdoor H-RTI setup. The findings in this paper are based on experimental work. RTI images of assorted textile impressions in a range of material were captured and then compared to digital photography based on standards for good documentation of archaeological textile impressions. The findings demonstrate that RTI is superior to digital photography for documentation of textile impressions. Particularly exciting is RTI’s ability to provide a lasting digital artifact of short-lived archaeological information for in situ archaeological textile impressions. Finally, this paper considers the implications of a shift from digital photography to RTI in conservation in terms of equipment, potential damage, image quality and size, image processing, archival protocols, digital media conservation, image backup, and ethics.

avatar for Emily Frank

Emily Frank

PhD Candidate | Objects Conservator, Institute for Study of the Ancient World at NYU
Emily Frank is an objects conservator; a PhD Candidate at the Institute for Study of the Ancient World at NYU; and a recent graduate of the joint MS in Conservation of Artistic & Historic Works and MA in History of Art & Archaeology at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine... Read More →

Thursday May 14, 2015 2:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
Miami Lecture Hall 400 SE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33131