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[BKARTS] European heritage of manuscripts and archive documents steadily deteriorating due to fire, water damage, stains or poor restoration work

EU project helps recover hidden Archimedes treaty

[Date: 2005-03-09]

Europe, perhaps more than other region in the world, has a heritage of
manuscripts and archive documents that are steadily deteriorating or are in
less than optimum condition due to fire, water damage, stains or poor
restoration work.

The physical deterioration of these documents is a major loss to European
cultural heritage. In 2003, the European Commission therefore decided to
fund a two year innovative project aimed at developing a user-friendly and
cost-effective tool for the digitalisation, virtual restoration and
archiving of ancient, degraded texts and manuscripts.

The IsyReaDeT project, funded under the CRAFT scheme of the Fifth Framework
Programme (FP5), has now achieved this goal and developed a successful
modular prototype based on a multispectral camera and image processing

In an interview with CORDIS News, Elena Console and Rossella Tassone from
TEASAS in Italy, who have been coordinating the project, explained how this
novel system works.

'Multispectral imaging, by using a selection of spectral bands such as
ultraviolet and infrared rays, makes it possible for the user to obtain the
images of damaged documents and see what is invisible to the naked eye,'
explained Dr Console.

'Infrared rays enable us to see hidden characters or even characters that
have disappeared over time. Ultraviolet rays enable us to see what caused
the degradation of the text without having to touch the document and without
a chemical test that would further damage and even destroy the document,'
added Dr Console.

Once the multispectral camera has revealed the hidden features in the
damaged document, the digital image can then be enhanced with various
image-processing techniques to erase stains and increase the readability of
the text.

As Dr Console and Ms Tassone explained, the IsyReaDeT prototype was tested
on a document provided by the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore in the US.
This document, the Archimedes Palimpsest, is an ancient manuscript of
several treatises by the great philosopher and mathematician, which had been
re-used and over-written with a Byzantine prayer in the 12th century.

Thanks to the IsyReaDeT system, it was possible to recover what had been
written under the prayer and recuperate the Archimedes texts.

'We are extremely happy with the results of the project,' Dr Console told
CORDIS News. 'We have achieved a modular system which is small in size,
small in price and simple to use even for people with no expertise in

'Furthermore,' added Dr Console, 'the system can be used preventively and is
not restricted to damaged documents. It enables the virtual reproduction and
diffusion through the Internet, as well as on multimedia CD-ROMs, of books
and documents. Our aim is to disseminate culture in order to reach more

The fact that the system is modular also means that a user interested only
in multispectral acquisition or only in image enhancement can use the
modules separately.

'The prototype still needs some fine-tuning of course as it can always be
improved. We are now looking for other sources of financing to turn this
prototype into a marketable product,' concluded Dr Console.

For further information on IsyReaDeT, please visit:

Or contact:
Elena Console:
E-mail: elena@xxxxxxxxxxxx

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