MCI Imaging specialists have been using a number of imaging techniques to document and help understand the nature of cultural heritage materials. These techniques record variations in scale from micro to macro, two- and three-dimensions, light interactions beyond human vision, and so open up new ways of seeing.
Staff at the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) recently helped Jamestown researchers decipher inscriptions from a unique stone tablet. The slate tablet, about 8x10 inches, dates from the earliest days of Jamestown. The tablet was found in an ongoing excavation of a well and so can be dated to about 1610. The inscribed surfaces have writing as well as pictures of birds and trees, and still indecipherable markings.
Using a new method called Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI), MCI staff created a digital surrogate of the tablet’s two surfaces. RTI is a non-contact way to digitize the surface qualities and apply non-destructive computational methods of enhancement. RTI allows the viewer to control the lighting angle and intensity in an intuitive and interactive way. One of the tremendous advantages to RTI is that it allows the user of the software to quickly become self-guided.
Soon after processing images, the Jamestown staff agreed that they had already seen more than was possible by other methods. MCI staff will process all the data for the Jamestown researchers and prepare it for them to assess back at their museum.