2 and 3D Photography at the Rijksmuseum: Confirmation and Direction

Spring in Amsterdam. Crowds gather around the "I Am Amsterdam" monument outside the Rijksmuseum.

Amsterdam is beautiful in the Springtime! In May I had the wonderful privilege of cycling around the city to and from conference sessions at the Rijksmuseum. I was there to attend the 2+3D Photography – Practice and Prophecies 2017 conference. This is the second time that the Rijksmuseum has hosted the conference and already it has become the premier World event in terms of the digitisation of museum objects and heritage resources.

I discovered that biking is the best way to see Amsterdam. My Air BnB had a spare bike and I took the most of the opportunity to see the city. Texting while riding seems to be common practice!

One thing about being involved in such a specialist field as the digitisation of museums and archives is that one can easily become isolated. It was wonderful, then, to rub shoulders with the leading institutions and personalities in the World. Apart from it being a thoroughly enriching experience, the conference both confirmed decisions we at Africa Media Online have made in the past and gave us clear direction for the future.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has been one of the World's leading institutions in terms of the adopting of digitial technologies to grant access to their extensive collections.

Firstly, the conference confirmed our decision a few years ago to move away from scanner technology to camera technology. It was clear, some years ago, that global investment in CMOS sensor technology was fast outstripping developments in CCD technology. It was also clear to me, that with my background as a professional photographer, that investing in the right cameras could not only give us significantly more versatility in terms of the variety of material that we are able to capture, but that they can also do so at the very highest standard complying to the new international digitisation standards that were emerging at that time. Initially we invested in full frame Canon and Nikon cameras, which we still use for a number of applications. More recently we have taken the significant leap of investing in Phase One medium format technology. After looking around at the major medium format systems we felt that Phase One was leading the pack in terms of innovation and the interplay of its hardware an software. Tahnee Cracchiola is Lead Photographer, Villa Imaging Studios at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California, USA. After carefully looking at the technology available, she and her colleagues came to the same conclusions that we did in terms of investing in Phase One digital backs and Broncolor lights.

Cecile van der Harten, Head Image Department, Rijksmuseum, is the mover and shaker behind the 2+3D Photography: Practice and Prophecies conference. The 2017 conference was the second. The first was held in 2015.

Secondly, the conference was a great encouragement to us to keep innovating. Chris Strasbaugh, Ditigal Library archivist and Curator in the Knowlton School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and City and Regional Planning at The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA presented a paper on a digitisation rig he built with electrical tubing and a lightweight camera. Digitisation presents so may unique challenges and it was wonderful to see how colleagues all over the World are meeting those challenges through innovation. It has encouraged us that we too can keep innovating as we have done in building our own digitisation rigs that really do work. On the workshop day at the end of the conference I had the privilege of seeing similar innovations that the Rijksmuseum have created at their digitisation centres which has sparked a whole string of ideas that bit by bit we are turning into reality.

Robert Erdmann, Senior Scientist, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (centre) interacting with colleagues during a boat cruise around the canals of Amsterdam. Robert presented a paper on "Pushing the Boundaries of Image Processing and Visualization for Cultural Heritage at the 2+3D Photography - Practice and Prophecies conference held at the Rijksmuseum in May 2017.

Thirdly, the conference helped to affirm and fine-tune things that we are already doing. Martina Hoffmann, Senior Production Manager for Digitization at the National Library of the Netherlands in The Hague, The Netherlands presented an excellent paper on quality assurance workflows in mass digitisation projects. I was able to chat with her for some time about the large-scale digitisation projects we are undertaking at present.

Digital imaging specialist, Hans van Dormolen, founder of Hans van Dormolen Imaging & Preservation Imaging (HIP) presents his new innovation, a 3D imaging target for the capture of 3D objects, at the 2+3D Photography Practice and Prophecies at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Finally, the conference gave us some clear direction for the future. It was wonderful to get an insight into the innovations that are coming down the line in terms of colour management, photogrammetry and 3D imaging. Hans van Dormolen, who wrote the Metamorfoze standard, presented a new 3D target he has developed. Don Williams of Image Science Associates, who create the colour targets we use, conducted a workshop on colour management together with Roy Berns. And Robert Erdmann, resident Senior Scientist at the Rijksmuseum gave us a brief but startling glimpse into the future of visualization of cultural heritage.

Maciej Pawlikowski, Head of Digital Content Unit at University of Cambridge (left) speaks to Roy Berns, Professor, Center for Imaging Science, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York during a workshop conducted by Roy and Don Williams (seated centre) of Image Science Associates, Williamson, New York, USA. The workshop at the 2+3D Photography - Practice and Prophecies conference at the Rijksmuseum was on FADGI and Metamorfoze compliance.

If it had done nothing else, the conference certainly galvanised decision making at Africa Media Online. We have invested in a Phase One IQ 150 digital back as a workhorse alongside our IQ3 100 back. We have also invested in another Broncolor lighting system that will give us more flexibility when capturing museum collections. Both of those are being used 16 hours a day at the moment digitising fragile manuscripts of the ANC Archives at the University of Fort Hare. We have also increased our efforts in the documentation of all that we do and have invested in new colour targets to ensure quality assurance in all of our workflows. And we have been incorporating new innovations into our MEMAT archival digital repository system, innovations which we hope to unveil in the not too distant future.

Broncolor lights on a digitisation rig at the Rijksmuseum store at Lelystad in The Netherlands. The workshop, conducted by the Rijksmuseum's Rik Klein Gotink looked at systems for capturing large flat objects in sections and using software to accurately stitch the tiles together.