Brussels, 09 Mar 2005
Europe, perhaps more than other region in the world, has a heritage of manuscripts and archive documents that are steadily deteriorating or are in less than optimum condition due to fire, water damage, stains or poor restoration work.
The physical deterioration of these documents is a major loss to European cultural heritage. In 2003, the European Commission therefore decided to fund a two year innovative project aimed at developing a user-friendly and cost-effective tool for the digitalisation, virtual restoration and archiving of ancient, degraded texts and manuscripts.
The IsyReaDeT project, funded under the CRAFT scheme of the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), has now achieved this goal and developed a successful modular prototype based on a multispectral camera and image processing algorithms.
In an interview with CORDIS News, Elena Console and Rossella Tassone from TEASAS in Italy, who have been coordinating the project, explained how this novel system works.
'Multispectral imaging, by using a selection of spectral bands such as ultraviolet and infrared rays, makes it possible for the user to obtain the images of damaged documents and see what is invisible to the naked eye,' explained Dr Console.
'Infrared rays enable us to see hidden characters or even characters that have disappeared over time. Ultraviolet rays enable us to see what caused the degradation of the text without having to touch the document and without a chemical test that would further damage and even destroy the document,' added Dr Console.
Once the multispectral camera has revealed the hidden features in the damaged document, the digital image can then be enhanced with various image-processing techniques to erase stains and increase the readability of the text.
As Dr Console and Ms Tassone explained, the IsyReaDeT prototype was tested on a document provided by the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore in the US. This document, the Archimedes Palimpsest, is an ancient manuscript of several treatises by the great philosopher and mathematician, which had been re-used and over-written with a Byzantine prayer in the 12th century.
Thanks to the IsyReaDeT system, it was possible to recover what had been written under the prayer and recuperate the Archimedes texts.
'We are extremely happy with the results of the project,' Dr Console told CORDIS News. 'We have achieved a modular system which is small in size, small in price and simple to use even for people with no expertise in mathematics.'
'Furthermore,' added Dr Console, 'the system can be used preventively and is not restricted to damaged documents. It enables the virtual reproduction and diffusion through the Internet, as well as on multimedia CD-ROMs, of books and documents. Our aim is to disseminate culture in order to reach more people.'
The fact that the system is modular also means that a user interested only in multispectral acquisition or only in image enhancement can use the modules separately.
'The prototype still needs some fine-tuning of course as it can always be improved. We are now looking for other sources of financing to turn this prototype into a marketable product,' concluded Dr Console.
For further information on IsyReaDeT, please visit:
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