The National Science Foundation has just announced a three-year award for a total of $1.2m to the team of Brent Seales (PI), Joseph Gray (co-PI), James Griffioen (co-PI), and Ross Scaife (co-PI) for EDUCE: Enhanced Digital Unwrapping for Conservation and Exploration.
This proposal is to develop a hardware and software system for the virtual unwrapping and visualization of ancient texts. The overall purpose is to capture in digital form fragile 3D texts, such as ancient papyrus and scrolls of other materials using a custom built, portable, multi-power CT scanning device and then to virtually “unroll” the scroll using image algorithms, rendering a digital facsimile that exposes and makes legible inscriptions and other markings on the artifact, all in a non-invasive process. Preliminary work has demonstrated proof of concept. The project is intensely interdisciplinary, requiring expertise in multiple domains. The project is complex and presents significant intellectual and technical challenges to information technology research, materials research, engineering and the social sciences. The potential broader impacts of the project are significant and immediately useful across a large set of scholarly applications and institutional practices. Successful implementation of the described system will enable non-invasive, non-destructive examination of fragile texts and artifacts which contain a wealth of information, allowing holders to share the intellectual content of precious assets with individuals and other institutions.