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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R033013/1
Title: PISTACHIO: Photonic Imaging Strategies for Technical Art History and Conservation
Principal Investigator: Reid, Professor D
Other Investigators:
Young, Professor C ALTMANN, Dr Y
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr M J Smith
Project Partners:
Chromacity Ltd. Department of Commerce (NIST) Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery
Thales Ltd
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2018 Ends: 31 January 2022 Value (£): 824,120
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Information & Knowledge Mgmt Optoelect. Devices & Circuits
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Information Technologies
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
06 Feb 2018 ICT Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Our tangible cultural heritage, both historic and contemporary, is made from a plethora of complex multilayer materials. What we see is often only the surface and form of an object. Hidden below are the materials and evidence of the processes by which the objects were originally created. By using state of the art imaging / spectroscopy systems which can map the composition and reveal the stages of their creation, we gain an understanding about the meaning and significance, both in their original context and our present day. This is at the heart of the disciplines of technical art history, archaeology and material culture studies. It also informs collections care, access policies and conservation of cultural heritage.

Infrared imaging and spectroscopy is particularly well suited to looking below the surface, as the scattering which normally occurs with visible light is usually much less. Thus the infrared penetrates further into the object. Depending on the material and its structure the infrared light will be absorbed or reflected. This can either be directly imaged or modulated (Fourier Transform Spectroscopy) to acquire spectroscopic information indicating the chemical composition. Most techniques employed at present within the field of cultural heritage can only make spot measurements; to map large areas would take hours to days to acquire the data and therefore is not usually viable or suitable for in-situ measurements. Other techniques require samples to be taken and are therefore invasive. We aim to explore state of the art IR imaging strategies that will be "fit for the job". This implies wide bandwidth, full field and fast techniques coupled with signal processing/ photonics methods to analyse, visualise and manipulate large multivariate data sets. By exploiting state-of-the-art laser sources developed at Heriot-Watt and providing massively tunable infrared light, we will explore and develop several complementary strategies for 4-dimensional imaging (3 x spatial, 1 x wavelength). Compressive sensing illumination techniques and machine-learning based data processing will allow us to image rapidly and efficiently while also extracting the maximum value from our datasets by automatically classifying surface and sub-surface features.

In this way we expect to produce outcomes of shared value for both the ICT and Technical Art History researchers in our team. Contextual information from art history will inform the photonic design and computational anaylsis strategies we deploy, while powerful ICT-led techniques will provide the Technical Art History community with new technical capabilities that reveal previously hidden structure and history.

The significance to the public of our cultural heritage has motivated us to integrate outreach activity from the start, in particular a dynamic website using 4D data to allow an interactive tool for exploring the chosen case studies, reflecting the People at the Heart of ICT priority.

The project includes industrial partners who will contribute resources and expertise in mid-IR lasers (Chromacity Ltd.) and mid-IR cameras (Thales Optronics Ltd.). Our partners have committed substantial in-kind support in the form of access to their technology and contributions of staff time. Furthermore, their engagement ensures that activities within the project, and the outcomes these generate, can be rapidly evaluated for adjacent commercial opportunities.

EPSRC priorities are reflected in the project's structure. Cross-Disciplinarity is embedded as collaborations within the ICT community (Photonics & AI Technologies researchers) and with researchers from the AHRC-funded Cultural Heritage community. Co-Creation is essential: only by combining the distinct technical, contextual and material resources of each research group in our team will the project succeed in delivering new capabilities for IR imaging and analysis and new insights into culturally important objects of shared value.

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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk