SEAHA (Science and Engineering in Arts Heritage and Archaeology) is a PhD research training programme delivering the next generation of research leaders in heritage science. It is a collaboration between UCL, Oxford and Brighton and supported by the EPSRC. SEAHA is funding 60 four-year PhD studentships between 2014 and 2022, involving over 70 heritage and industrial partners and offering an exceptionally rich and well-supported PhD experience for our future heritage scientists.
A SEAHA PhD studentship consists of a one-year MRes at UCL, followed by a three-year PhD programme at the host institution (in this case, University of Brighton). All SEAHA projects are supervised by a team of academic, heritage and industrial supervisors, who are involved in the project throughout the four years, and often involve substantial placements with heritage or industrial partners. In addition, SEAHA students take part in a range of additional training and professional activities with other students across the programme, have access to heritage science facilities in all three institutions and partners, and have individual research budgets of £3K per year.
The pace at which digital assets for arts, heritage and archaeology are being acquired continues to accelerate in both the raw volume acquired and the variety of datatypes being recorded. Fraunhofer-IGD have recently developed new technology which automates the acquisition of 3D digital models of cultural artefacts, making it possible for museums and other cultural organisations to consider digitising their collections on a large scale. However, building large collections of 3D models, and other digital assets (such as text, images, video, manuscripts), brings with it new problems of documentation, search and presentation.
Such processes can be supported by creating semantic metadata which link assets together and provide searchable representations of properties such as shape, texture or colour (for example). This project aims to develop scalable approaches to metadata acquisition (automatic or semi-automatic) which can be integrated into cultural heritage practice and/or web-based 3D-centered annotation tools to enhance the management, accessibility and experience of digitised cultural heritage.
The key research questions to be addressed are:
1. What challenges does the advent of large scale 3d digitisation bring to the organisation and management of museum collections?
2. What new opportunities for scalable metadata acquisition arise from the availability of large scale digitised collections?
3. Can the provision of scalable acquisition tools have a significant impact on cultural heritage practice, workflows and standards in an age of large-scale digitisation?
The research methodology will be to:
1. Develop research scenarios in conjunction with the cultural collaborators to hypothesise new approaches to metadata acquisition that could be empowered by the availability of large-scale digital asset collections.
2. Select an experimental set of artefacts to explore the practicalities of metadata extraction from large scale digital collections and the balance of automatic detection of relationships within the collection compared with the use of manual intervention.
3. Engage with potential CH researchers to develop web-based 3D-centred annotation tools to support the analysis of relationships in the resulting digital collection.
4. Evaluate the degree to which the identification of semantic links in a digital collection can be effectively automated and produce results that would not have been anticipated without the use of the technologies
The University of Brighton will provide expertise in knowledge engineering, cultural heritage ontologies and digitisation campaigns. Fraunhofer-IGD will provide expertise in and data sets resulting from mass digitisation and access to/involvement in a re-engineered 3D-repository infrastructure. MyMiniFactory Scan the World will provide access to 3D models of cultural artefacts and expertise in creating and organising large collections of 3D models.