Sunday, January 8, 2012

Imagery of the Bankes Homer


Thanks to the cooperation of the British Library, and particularly Claire Breay and Chris Lee, the Homer Multitext can now offer a stunning panoramic image of the Bankes Homer (BM Papyrus 114), containing most of Book 24 of the Iliad.

This image is being hosted on the project’s server, a resource provided by the University of Houston’s Center for High Performance Computing, Keith Crabb, Director.

Access to this image will allow us to continue editing the electronic edition of the Bankes Iliad, a project begun at Furman University in 2009 by David Creasey, Kylie Elliott, Talley Lattimore, and Brett Stonecipher.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Working in Lichfield

My wife, Amy Hackney Blackwell, is posting an ongoing blog about our current travels, here. Hers is probably much more engaging than mine.

Professor Bill Endres of the University of Kentuky, after several months of conversation, has arranged for the team from the University of Kentucky and Dr. Brent Seales Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments to travel to Lichfield Cathedral, in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England, and to digitize two of the Bibles in the Cathedral’s library.

The two books are a Wycliff Bible, an early English translation dating from approximately AD 1410, and the famous St. Chad’s Gospel, a Latin Bible from approximately AD 730, on whose margins are annotations that represent the earliest written examples of the Welsh Language.

Thanks to the relationship of trust that Dr. Endres established with the Chapter of the Cathedral, and the open-mindedness of the Chapter, and in particular of Canon Chancellor Pete Wilcox, the University of Kentucky secured a forward-looking contract that will allow the images and other data from these Bibles to be used for scholarship and teaching under a Creative Commons license. At the same time, the University of Kentucky is going to work with Lichfield Cathedral to explore ways to create commercial products for the Cathedral that will take advantage of the data – an iPad/iPhone facsimile-browser is under development, for example.

Brent Seales invited Amy and me along because of our experience with the Conservation Copystand, and as an opportunity to explore techniques of digitization using the big copystand and the portable copystand that Furman University bought.

For the work, we will use an old-fashioned bellows camera with a medum-format digital back. The digital sensor is monochromatic, and 38 megapixels. The resolution is a good thing, and the lack of color is also a good thing. In a normal, color, digital camera of, say, 24 megapixels, there is a color filter laid over the sensor. Of the 24 million pixels, 8 will be filtered through red, 8 will be filtered through green, and 8 will be filtered through blue. So each full color "pixel" will consume three pixels of resolution. The software in the camera will merge the three pixels into one, full-color pixel, at the cost of some softness to the image.

Our black-and-white camera has no color filter in front of the sensor. This does not mean that we won’t have lovely color images of these Bibles, however.

The lights for this photography consist of banks of LED lights, with each bank bank of LEDs emitting a specific frequency of light. There are thirteen banks, ranging from ultraviolet, through the visible spectrum (blues, greens, oranges, reds) down to several levels of infrared. The camera and lights are controlled by a computer, which will automatically cycle through the spectra of light, taking a picture for each one.

The result is thirteen monochromatic images, each showing particular features of the page, as different kinds of ink and different kinds of stains or damage reflect differently.

At the end, the thirteen images can be merged to create full-color images that take advantage of the full resolution of the sensor. Other “false color” images can be generated to suit particular kinds of analysis.

In addition to this digital photography, the team is capturing structured light data, which involves projecting a series of patterns on the page, and photographing each one. From this data, we can generate a 3-dimensional model of the page.

All the while, we have to take care for the alignment of the book, stresses on its binding, the humidity and temperature in the room, and the fact that the Cathedral is in full operation around us, with visiting school groups, several services a day, guided tours, and all the business that has transpired here for over five hundred years.

Tomorrow I will try to write about the significance of the Wycliff Bible.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Weekend in London

Amy, the kids, and I spent the weekend in London. We wanted to meet David and Juan at the British Library, but also realized that this was our one and only chance to do any tourism in London, since we will be working in Lichfield all week, and flying to Paris from Birmingham. So we took the train from Lichfield Trent Valley station to Euston station, which is right next to the British Library.

There, we got to have a nice coffee with David Jacobs, of the Conservation Department, and Juan Garces, of Western Manuscripts. Juan was working over the weekend, getting ready for their unveiling of a new digital presentation of some ancient Greek manuscripts. David had come in just to see us.

We got a nice lunch at a French Gastro-pub, then set out to have as much tourism as we could stand.

We spent a chilly afternoon making our way toward the Thames river, with a nice stop at Coram’s Fields, a kids-only park run by a private Charitable Trust. Will and Zoe did a good job making friends with the local kids, and got some running and playing in. 

We nearly perished, since our planned late-afternoon snack time coincided with our crossing of the City, the area around Fleet Street where everything was utterly closed on a Saturday afternoon. We would have been happy for one of Sweeney Todd’s and Mrs. Lovett’s Meat Pies. By crossing the river, we discovered an ice-cream shop and our sanity was restored. We ended the day with a cruise on the river, a cab ride back to Euston Rd., and dinner-and-World Cup at the Euston Flyer.

On Sunday, we met Juan and his wife Bronwyn at the BL, and had a lovely lunch at a Spanish restaurant. The kids watched more World Cup. 

We then did the British Museum, mainly mummies and the Elgin Marbles. We just got back to Lichfield, where the lovely staff of the Cathedral Lodge Hotel had our room wating for us. We start work at the Cathedral tomorrow morning.





Litchfield

We have traveled to Litchfield, England, as the advanced elements of the team that will digitize two Bibles in the library of Litchfield Cathedral.

On Wednesday, Amy, Will, Zoe, and I drove to Charlotte and took a flight to Gatwick. We chose to take the bus from Gatwick to Litchfield, rather than a train, since the bus would allow us to avoid a £100 train ride into London. In retrospect, this was not the best plan. These pictures are from our 3-hour wait for the bus from Gatwick. We survived, However, and got to our hotel at about 6:00 on Thursday. The kids were real troopers.


On Friday we had a very pleasant initial meeting with Canon Chancellor Pete Wilcox, who showed us the Vestry room where we will set up the conservation copystand. The staging area will be either the Pedilavium, which would be a bit public, or the Choristers’ Vestry, which would be ideal for us, if not for the Choristers.

Everyone at the Cathedral was warmly welcoming. We got an impromptu tour, as the Nave filled up with schoolchildren arriving for a day of Cathedral-related activities--music, drama, calligraphy, painting. Zoe was particularly taken with the English kids, who looked fabulous in their uniforms.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around, watching some Grebes building a nest in a pond, watching the US/Slovenia game in our room, and watching England/Algeria from the extremely pleasant “George IV” pub, whose proprietor is our new best friend in Lichfield.
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I will talk a little about the two books we will be photographing, the agreement with the Cathedral, and the technology involved in my next post.

We are on a train to London now, on Saturday morning, to see David and Juan at the British Library, and to do tourist things for the weekend.

On Monday morning the gear will be delivered, and we can get down to business.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The first steps - #2 in a series

The elaborately synchronized plans that will take us to Lichfield Cathedral, and thence to the Real Monasterio de El Escorial outside of Madrid have lurched into motion.

I’ll go into more details in a future post, but the short version of our plans for Europe this summer is this: I will be tagging along with the team from Kentucky as they take digital Images of two books at Lichfield Cathedral. The first is the so-called Saint Chad Gospel, and the second is an early English translation of the Bible. The Kentucky team and I, joined by my Homer Multitext colleagues, will (if all goes well) go to Spain to capture imagrery in 2-dimensions and 3-dimensions, of two early Greek texts of the Homeric Iliad.

The Conservation Copystand, a big hunk of equipment built for the Center for Hellenic Studies by Manfred Mayer in Graz, has begun its journey from Greece. If all goes well, it will be waiting for us in Lichfield when we get there.

The excellent Christos Giannopoulos, who manages the CHS’s center in Nafplio, Greece, has made arrangements to pack the huge, heavy thing. Matt Field of the University of Kentucky’s Vis Center handled the arrangements from the US side.

David Jacobs, Juan Garces, both of the British Library, and Chris Collins of the British Museum, will be going to Lichfield and El Escorial to set up environmental monitoring equipment that will give us baseline data on the circumstances that these ancient manuscripts are accustomed to. According to David, the important thing is to avoid changing the environment too much as we photograph the books.

Next week, I will drive to Kentucky for the hardware-integration test, where we will see if the multispectral lights, the digital camera, and the 3-d mapping system can work together.

In the meantime, I have been working with Andrew Canon, a rising Senior at Furman University, on issues of XML markup of Greek texts. He will be joined in this work by Susannah Morris and Andrew Corley when they get back from Turkey.

More details about all of this anon...

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Bringing it together - #1 in a series

The main reason I started writing this blog, after years of eschewing the “social internet” was to keep a public record of things, personal thoughts and experiences certainly, but mainly things related to the projects that occupy so much of my time.


I think that this might be particularly interesting to current or prospective students of Furman University, where I teach Ancient Greek in the Department of Classics.

My two main research projects these days are closely related. The first is the work I do for Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott, who are the Editors of the Homer Multitext, a project of the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University; my friend Neel Smith and I work on the technological infrastructure for this digital-library project.

This project aims to collect as much real information about the history of Homeric poetry as possible, and share it with the widest possible audience in the most useful ways we can imagine. Along the way, the project’s editors hope to further their insights into the fundamental nature of the Homeric poems as oral compositions, products of a tradition of composition-in-performance (like jazz music) whose influence persisted long after the poems ceased to be songs to be sung and had become mainly written texts to be read and studied.

The second is my work with Brent Seales of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments, on an NSF-funded project called “FoLIO: Framework for Longitudinal Image-based Organization”. I have worked closely with David Jacobs and Juan Garces of the British Library on this, as well.



This project aims to develop techniques and standards for organizing collections of images and registering them with each other in such a way as to allow measurement along different axes. For example, how can we organize images of a manuscript taken in 1900 and others taken in 2007 in such a way as to measure change in the physical artifact over time? Or, how can we organize the collection of a patient’s medical imagry that might include x-rays, MRI imagery, and ultrasounds, so that the same structures can be measured and compared precisely?

This work is nothing but pleasure for me, for a number of reasons. First, my professional collaborators are both brilliant, and great friends. Words cannot express what a luxury this is to me.

Second, my professional collaborators range from senior scholars to undergraduates at Furman University, and it is impossible to imagine this work going anywhere without all of their contributions.

So, in the postings that follow, I am going to try to describe each of these projects, include some pictures, and generally set the stage for the regular updates I plan to post this summer, as my collaborators and I pursue our projects in Greenville, as well as in England, France, and Spain.

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