January 2016

Anastylosis, facsimiles and the dynamic relationship between the original and its appearance.

Ben Lerner’s New Yorker article about the ‘Replication Committee’ at the new Whitney Museum, the 'Party for Palmyra' thrown at the Davos summit by the President of Yale University and the establishment of a 'Cultural Protection Fund' in UK are all evidence of the increasingly important role that digital preservation is playing in the protection of cultural heritage. It is a fast growing subject in need of clarification and intellectual coherence.
On the 14th of January 2016 the Quai Branly held a conference Le rôle des archéologues et les moyens technologiques which took the form of a dialogue between Adam Lowe and Syrian archaeologists Michel al-Maqdissi and Ali Cheikhmous, who have been working to safeguard and preserve Syria’s archaeological heritage. The conversation covered many aspects of the protection of heritage and the application of technology. It was a very sad evening full of shocking images and stories - but there were seeds of optimism and some themes started to emerge which could lead to positive actions: What kind of recording is needed? Where is it needed? How should it be funded? How should funds be allocated? Is the rebuilding of destroyed sites a meaningful form of preservation? How do archaeologists get access to the funds that are urgently needed after a war is over and before the rebuilding of cities like Aleppo begins? The debate has begun and the results will bear witness to the decisions that are made. It is possible to do something meaningful. Factum Arte’s 3D scanning and facsimiles are evidence of the positive impact technology can have on the conservation of endangered heritage.   |


'Mystery of the lost Caravaggio' on Sky Arts

Tonight Sky Arts will broadcast the documentary Mystery of the lost Caravaggio made by Ballandi MultiMedia. It is about the theft of Caravaggio’s great painting The Nativity with St Lawrence and St Francis (1609) that was stolen from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo in Palermo in 1969. The documentary is an interesting form of Patronage. It follows the ‘performance’ of re-materialising the missing painting from a colour photograph taken in 1968 by Enzo Brai, some black and white images from the Instituto del Restauro and the high-resolution recording of the three paintings from the church of San Luigi Francesi in Rome made by a team from Factum Arte in 2009. Through a gradual process of digital and physical recreation, done under the watchful and informed eye of Peter Glidewell, a poor reproduction gradually morphed into a physical re-creation of the missing painting. It is now our hope that whoever stole the painting will decide to return it so that the original and performance by the team in Factum Arte can be compared.

In the image: The unveiling of Factum Arte's 'performance' of Caravaggio's Nativity, Palermo 12th December 2015


New Technologies

Factum Arte and the Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation have been studying and developing technologies for many years and applying their innovations to the preservation of the past. We always work closely with the people on the ground who know and understand the objects. Our goal is to provide the data they need in a form they can use. This could focus on the development of new recording systems, ie.the revolving manuscript and photograph scanning system; initiating preservation projects with ministries and foundations in Daghestan, Egypt, Lebanon, Italy and Scotland; or providing data for archaeologists and Egyptologists, like Nicholas Reeves and Dr Mamdouh Eldamaty in Egypt. In all the projects the emphasisis on preservation, archiving, access and using technology to transform and deepen our understanding while revealing the dynamic nature of conservation.

In the image: Multi Rotor DJI Inspire 1Pro X5 flying in Factum Arte’s studio whole trying to record the Lamassu from the British Museum. Research and development of both hardware and software are at the core of the work that is going on in Madrid.



The photogrammetry team at Factum Arte have been developing high-resolution systems based on the rapidly growing art of photogrammetry. Tatjana Dzambazova, Autodesk’s 'software whisperer', spent 3 days working intensely with the team and studying our specific needs. We are now trying to cement a long term agreement that if successful, could have significant implications for colour and 3D recording in remote or dangerous environments - an example of this is the work that is being planned to record a unique set of 66-million year-old sauropod trackways in Pakistan's Baluchistan province. This extraordinary trace of the slipping dinosaur narrowly avoided being destroyed. Nick Allen has now secured formal permission to do the recording that will result in an exact replica of the 30-ft vertical slab that contains the fosillised remains of its presence.

In the image: Tatjana Dzambazova lecturing to Factum Arte’s 3D scanning team during her visit to explain Memento, Autodesk forthcoming Photogrammetry software.


Making physical things

As Factum Arte grows and the Foundation finds its voice, there is a constant re-negotiation of the balance between the historical work we are doing and the contemporary works we are making. The relationship between the digital artisans and the physical ones is maturing. The algorithms that control the software are discussed alongside conversations about patinas and surface. As a result, the studios, that are at the heart of our work, are always places of infectious wonder and juxtaposition. At present the routed walnut for Mathias Bengtsson can be seen in the foreground as a seven axis routed variant of Laocoon is being produced for Davide Quayola. Almost invisible in the background are portrait heads recorded on the Veronica Chorographic scanner and a vast Lamassu from the British Museum that has just been cast in scagliola.
2016 is looking like a very exciting year.

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