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Seminar: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

"Spectral Imaging of Cultural Heritage Texts"
Dr. William Christens-Barry
Equipoise Imaging, LLC,

Techniques of spectral imaging that were originally developed for remote sensing and biological imaging have more recently been applied in studies of ancient textual materials of cultural and historical interest. Palimpsests, texts in which the original content has been intentionally erased or removed so that the writing substrate could be reused, are of particularly intense interest to scholars and the public. While manuscript leaves share much in common with traditional subjects of spectral imaging and subsequent processing, they exhibit many unique and problematic features that confound collaborative imaging projects. Extensive damage further limits the legibility of text, while constraints imposed by the location and setting often complicate efforts to capture and analyze images.

A self-organized group of scientists and scholars, including the speaker, have tapped and modified spectral imaging techniques to investigate numerous manuscripts and textual materials of interest, including: the Archimedes Palimpsest containing important methods written by Archimedes; the innovative Waldseemuller Map, which first established the name "America"; the Dead Sea Scrolls, whose condition and content is currently under study in Jerusalem; the very large collection of ancient palimpsests in the library of St. Catherine's Monastery of the Sinai; textual and cartographic treasures held at the Library of Congress, including drafts of the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address; David Livingstone's journals from East Africa; and numerous others.

The speaker will describe techniques used for image capture and analysis of palimpsests and other faint or damaged texts, and will discuss findings and current directions.

Location: Physics Bldg., Room 401