Imaging Cultural Heritage

Giacomo Chiari

Giacomo Chiari

(Turin University, Getty Conservation Institute)

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Date: January 21, 2015


An image is worth a 1000 words.  The recent progress in imaging techniques applied to Cultural Heritage has been immense and to cover them all it would take a full university course. This lecture presents in a succinct way the applications of imaging done at the Getty Conservation Institute in the last 10 years. The fundamental problem of registering and superimposing images obtained by using different techniques has been solved, and several examples will show how powerful this is. Chemical mapping, coupled with spot noninvasive analyses on selected points, enormously reduces the need to take samples. Several techniques to image the invisible are described, some old and revitalized thanks to new tools, like Electron Emission or defocused radiography; others totally new and made possible by the advent of modern detectors and excitation means. A 3D visualization of medium-large bronze statue via Ct-scan has opened new insights into the defects in the statue’s manufacture and the subsequent deterioration. The possibility to detect loose pieces of plaster at a distance, that are dangerous to the public, using Laser Speckle interferometry can save large amounts of money and conservators time. Multispectral analysis, giving different information for each wavelength, makes it possible to select the most informative images and combine them together. Visible Induced Luminescence can uniquely map Egyptian blue and the examples shown demonstrate how powerful this technique is.

Further Information:

Giacomo Chiari, a full professor in crystallography from Turin University, worked extensively on cultural heritage (Michelangelo’s Last Judgement, Maya Blue, adobe conservation in many countries). When he retired in 2003 from Turin University, he became the Chief Scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles. He retired from the GCI in 2013 and he has been consulting and lecturing since then. At GCI he helped to develop new equipment (CT-scan for bronze, a portable noninvasive XRD/XRF device – DUETTO, a Laser Speckle interferometer to detect detached plasters, VIL, visually induced luminescence for mapping Egyptian Blue pigment and X-ray electron emission radiography). In the field he has worked on mural paintings in Peru, in Tutankhamen tomb and in Herculaneum.

Created: Wednesday, January 21st, 2015