Smartdocheritage 2010

It doesn’t seem like a year ago Mario asked me if I would submit a paper but the time has come and I’m on my way! As a guest of the illustrious university of Pennsylvania along with some 250 specialist attendees I am attending 2 days of seminars on documentation theory and practice. It’s a diverse group and I’m looking forward to learning the latest on condition and material sciences. The programme includes some recent case study reports on scanning for condition records, something I’m quite sceptical about, unless it involves record photography of course!

An early start and I’m off on the Picadilly Line, I have to change at Acton Town where the 30s station by Charles Holden is well looked after and still has a sense of the modern but Johnstone’s roman sans looks oddly dated, perhaps because we have grown used to seeing it replaced by Gill Sans variants.

Jammed in the tube with a pack on my back I get to Heathrow in good time.

Terminal 5 is still gleaming new and its a pleasant interlude among the glittering rubbish they try and sell airside until it’s time to board the B777.  In the queue I meet Divay Gupta an old friend from Recordim days who has just transferred from Delhi.
The flight is lightly loaded and passes comfortably with slightly odd food interrupting my dozing

SMARTdoc is a mix of scanner driven projects and wise words from conservation driven practitioners. The overlap is intresting, a lot of heritage has been scanned because people with scanners want to scan it and sometimes there is a conservation information gain, and sometimes there isn’t. The recent loss at the Domus Gladiatori at Pompeii was reported and the lack of data in the area of loss was a sad reminder of the tendency to focus attention on the ‘glory’ projects (there have been a multiplicity of scanning projects in the Forum but none of the now destroyed Domus Gladiatori) and ignore the less attactactive aspects of sites: incompletness or intermittance of documentation is all too common when resources are largely unplanned or voluntary.

I present what I know in 20mins and I think it’s useful knowledge for the experts old and new assembled together.

There is great concern over the application of monitoring technologies. It is with great joy to me that the idea of monitoring surface erosion with standard terrestrial laser scanners is laid to rest, both as evidenced in an excellent research paper by Jessica Kottke and by the personal experience of Frank Matero: the detection of sub milimeter surface loss is beyond the performance of most laser scans.

Kubit are represented by Scott Diaz and he lets me demo my PhoToPlan 3D project to attendees and the interest is positive. Photogrammetry seems to be less attractive to many as we have a generation of conservators who have been exposed to laser scanning as the principal 3D capture system. Every one has a camera but few understand what a powerful tool it is for metric documentation!

Teaching heritage documentation is developing and the key courses at ICCROM and the Lemaire Centre lead the way. The core curriculum subjects of inventory GIS, condition mapping, metric survey and project documentation are becoming clearly established but the monitoring aspects of documentation as well as the old bugbears of metadata and data dissemination are still a long way from being universal practice.

The symposium closes with a clarion call from Lon Addison of The World Heritage Centre for documentation to do better at engaging with conservation planners and to build support for heritage conservation in the way environment campaigners have. The reaction by the sector to losses in cultural heritage all too often falls short of winning public engagement in the way environmental issues do. We need to tell stories, build links and share knowledge!

Smartdoc 2010 is in many ways a testament to the late Robin Letellier who was the driver of the RecorDim initiative. He was tireless in his efforts to make the science of survey work for the art of conservation and I think he would be proud to see the conversation he began between technologists and conservators continues and progresses towards better practice as links are made and strengthened. Events like this are rare and it takes a great deal of preparation for them to work as well as this Mario Santana and Frank Matero deserve a medal!

There’s no wind at all so I give up trying to KAP the USS Olympia and walk the city until it’s time to board the local and head for home.


About billboyheritagesurvey

Heritage worker
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