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The Great Parchment Book

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Abstract and Figures

Digitization of historical documents is extremely useful as it allows easy access to the documents from remote locations and removes the need for potentially harmful physical handling. Traditional imaging methods are unsuitable for documents with complex geometry as they will produce images containing perspective distortions, and 3D imaging methods previously proposed for document scanning will often suffer from occlusions and/or require manual alignment of individual range scans. We present a lightweight pipeline for imaging and generating 3D reconstructions of severely damaged and distorted documents which exhibit such complex geometry. We demonstrate our pipeline on The Great Parchment Book of The Honourable The Irish Society, a 17th century survey of the Ulster estates managed by the City of London, which was severely damaged by a fire in 1786.
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VOL. 3 NO. 1 SPRING 2014
LISA M. RHODY, EDITOR
JOAN FRAGASZY TROYANO, EDITOR
STEPHANIE WESTCOTT, MANAGING EDITOR
SASHA HOFFMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR
AMANDA MORTON, TECHNICAL EDITOR
LINDSEY BESTEBREURTJE, COPY EDITOR
BENJAMIN SCHNEIDER, COPY EDITOR
ISSN 2165-6673
CC-BY 3.0
ROY ROSENZWEIG CENTER FOR HISTORY AND NEW MEDIA
GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
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Great Parchment Book Project
Nicola Avery, Alberto Campagnolo, Caroline De Stefani, Kazim Pal, Matthew Payne, Philippa Smith, Rachael Smither, Ann Stewart, Emma Stewart, Patricia Stewart, Melissa
Terras, Lawrence Ward, Tim Weyrich, and Liz Yamada!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!.!83
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Visual Historiography: Visualizing “The Literature of a Field”
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NICOLA AVERY, ALBERTO CAMPAGNOLO, CAROLINE
DE STEFANI, KAZIM PAL, MATTHEW PAYNE,
PHILIPPA SMITH, RACHAEL SMITHER, ANN STEWART,
EMMA STEWART, PATRICIA STEWART, MELISSA
TERRAS, LAWRENCE WARD, TIM WEYRICH, AND LIZ
YAMADA
Great Parchment Book
Project
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Abstract
The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish Society is a
major survey, compiled in 1639 by a Commission instituted by Charles
I, of all the estates in Derry, Northern Ireland, managed by the City of
London through the Irish Society and the London livery companies.
Damaged in a fire at London’s Guildhall in 1786, it has been
unavailable to researchers for over 200 years (Moody; Curl). The
damaged manuscript has however remained part of the City of
London’s collections held at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). As
part of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the building of
Derry’s city walls in 1613, it was decided to attempt to make the
document available as a central point of the planned exhibition. The
book represents an important source for the City’s role in the
colonization and administration of Ulster and, given the relative
paucity of archival records for early modern Ireland, the manuscript
should also reveal key data about landholding and population in 17th-
century Ulster.
This ambitious project has attracted support from several funders,
including the UK’s National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the Marc
Fitch Fund, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
(EPSRC), a number of London livery companies and the Irish Society
itself. University College London (UCL), Derry Heritage and Museums
Service (DHMS), and LMA have also provided funds and staff time.
83
Great Parchment Book Project
Alberto CAMPAGNOLO, Nicola AVERY, Caroline DESTEFANI, Matthew PAYNE, Philippa, SMITH, Rachael SMITHER, Ann STEWART, Emma STEWART, Patricia STEWART, Laurence WARD, Liz YAMADA (London
Metropolitan Archives)
Tim WEYRICH, Kazim PAL, Melissa TERRAS (UCL Department of Computer Science and UCL Centre for Digital Humanities)
The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish
Society is a major survey, compiled in 1639 by a Commission
instituted by Charles I, of all the estates in Derry, Northern
Ireland, managed by the City of London through the Irish
Society and the London livery companies. Damaged in a fire at
Londons Guildhall in 1786, it has been unavailable to
researchers for over 200 years. The damaged manuscript has
however remained part of the City of Londons collections
held at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA reference
CLA/049/EM/02/018). As part of the commemoration of the
400th anniversary of the building of Derrys city walls in 1613,
it was decided to attempt to make the document available as a
central point of the planned exhibition. Given the relative
paucity of archival records for early modern Ireland, the
manuscript should reveal key data about landholding and
population in 17th-century Ulster.
The manuscript consists of 165 separate parchment
membranes, all damaged in the fire. Uneven shrinkage and
distortion has rendered much of the text illegible.
Traditional conser vation alone would not produce sufficient
results to make the manuscript accessible or suitable for
exhibition, the parchment being too shrivelled to be returned
to a readable state. Much of the text is visible but distorted;
following discussions with conservation and imaging experts, it
was decided to flatten the parchment sheets as far as possible,
and to use multi-modal digital imaging to gain legibility and
enable digital access.
Conservation and Flattening Virtual Flattening Results
Conserving, digitally reconstructing, tr anscribing and publishing the manuscript known as the Great Parchment Book
www.greatparchmentbook.org
A partnership with the Department of Computer Science and
the Centre for Digital Humanities at UCL established a four
year EngD in the Virtual Environments, Imaging and
Visualisation programme in September 2010 (jointly funded by
the EPSRC and LMA) with the intention of developing
software that will enable the manipulation (including virtual
stretching and alignment) of digital images of the book rather
than the object itself. The aim is to make the distorted text
legible, and ideally to reconstitute the manuscript digitally.
Conservation work on the membranes encompassed damage
assessment and surface cleaning of soot and dirt. Each
membrane was then carefully humidified to avoid catalysing
the degradation processes already occurring in the parchment.
Once the sheets were moistened enough, they were gently
pinned on a metal sheet with felt-wrapped magnets to hold
creases open during the drying process and left to dry under
tension. This opened out areas of parchment where the
camera could not reach the text. Once treated, the sheet
were rehoused in purpose-made archival boxes.
A team from UCL Computer Science and UCL Centre for
Digital Humanities, led by Dr Tim Weyrich, worked with LMA
to capture 50 to 60 high resolution images of each page.
Kazim Pal, a PhD student working on the project, then built
software to generate a 3D model which allowed viewing of
the damaged pages at archival resolution. A key feature of the
software is to dynamically flatten these models virtually on
screen, allowing the contents of the book to be accessed
more easily and without further handling of the document.
The Manuscript
Transcription and Publication
A readable and exploitable version of the text was also
prepared, comprising a searchable transcription and glossary of
the manuscript. This element of the project received a grant
from the Marc Fitch Fund towards the employment of a
palaeographer who also encoded the text using TEI to capture
structural and semantic information about the texts. This
enabled comprehensive searching of the document.
The transcript and images of the document are being made
available online through the project website, to enable
sophisticated online presentation and searching of the
document contents.
@LdnMetArchives
The virtual flattening procedure begins by generating a high
resolution 3D model of each page from a set of images using
multi-view-stereo and surface reconstruction algorithms. This
3D model can then be explored in an interactive application
which dynamically flattens local regions of the page as the user
navigates over them. This region-by-region approach to
flattening was demonstrated to circumvent many of the
problems of global document flattening methods, which can
introduce extra distortions when applied to such damaged
manuscripts. The application also records the provenance of
the 3D data by displaying the reconstruction side by side with
the original images.
Physical Description and Conservation Issues
The manuscript consists of 165 separate parchment membranes, all
damaged in the fire. Uneven shrinkage and distortion has rendered
much of the text illegible.
Traditional conservation alone would not produce sufficient results to
make the manuscript accessible or suitable for exhibition, the
parchment being too shriveled to be returned to a readable state. Much
of the text is visible but distorted; following discussions with
conservation and imaging experts, it was decided to flatten the
parchment sheets as far as possible, and to use multi-modal digital
imaging to gain legibility and enable digital access.
The Project
A partnership with the Department of Computer Science and the
Centre for Digital Humanities at UCL established a four-year EngD in
the Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualization programme in
September 2010 (jointly funded by the EPSRC and LMA) with the
intention of developing software that would enable the manipulation
(including virtual stretching and alignment) of digital images of the
book rather than the object itself. The aim was to make the distorted
text legible, and ideally to reconstitute the manuscript digitally.
Conservation work on the membranes encompassed cleaning,
humidification, and tension drying, using magnets placed on top of the
parchment above a metal sheet to hold creases open during the drying
process. This opened out areas of parchment where the camera could
not reach the text (De Stefani).
The practical conservation of the membranes was the essential first
step, followed by the imaging work being carried out by UCL, where a
set of typically 50-60 22MP images is captured for each page and used
to generate a 3D model containing 100-170MP, which allows viewing
at archival resolution (Pal et al., 3D Reconstruction). These models can
be flattened and browsed virtually, allowing the contents of the book to
be accessed more easily and without further handling the document
(Pal et al., Interactive Exploration; Pal et al., Interactive Restoration).
A readable and exploitable version of the text has also been prepared,
comprising a searchable transcription and glossary of the manuscript.
This element of the project received a grant from the Marc Fitch Fund
towards the employment of a palaeographer who also encoded
appropriate terms using TEI to capture structural and semantic
information about the texts enabling comprehensive searching of the
document.
The transcript and images of the document have been published
online. The project worked with web-designers Headscape to develop a
website to enable sophisticated online presentation and searching of
the document contents.
From 2013, both DHMS and LMA plan to use the document in their
interpretation and outreach programmes, developing resources for
schools and colleges based on the information it contains; there is also
considerable interest from academics (Stewart 2013a; Stewart 2013b).
Our work on the computational approach to model, stretch, and read
the damaged parchment will be applicable to similarly damaged
material as we believe we are developing best practice computational
approaches to digitizing highly distorted, fire-damaged, historical
documents.
Summary
The digital imaging and transcription will provide a lasting resource for
historians researching the Plantation of Ulster in local, national and
84
international contexts. The progress of the project is being recorded on
a blog embedded in the website. (The Great Parchment Book).
Originally presented by Nicola Avery, Alberto Campagnolo, Caroline De
Stefani, Kazim Pal, Matthew Payne, Philippa Smith, Rachael Smither,
Ann Stewart, Emma Stewart, Patricia Stewart, Melissa Terras, Lawrence
Ward, Tim Weyrich, and Liz Yamada at DH2013 on!July 17, 2013.
References
Curl, J. S. The Honourable the Irish Society and the Plantation of
Ulster, 1608-2000: The City of London and the Colonisation of
County Londonderry in the Province of Ulster in Ireland: A History
and Critique. Chichester, West Sussex: Phillimore, 2000.
De Stefani, C. "Conservation of the Great Parchment Book" (Paper
presented at the ARA Annual Conference, Brighton, August 29-31,
2012).
D. Stefani, C. "Great Parchment Book Project" (Paper presented at
Opposites Attract: Science and Archives, London Metropolitan
Archives, March 21, 2014.)
London Metropolitan Archives, The Great Parchment Book:
Conserving, Digitally Reconstructing, Transcribing, and Publishing the
Manuscript Known as the Great Parchment Book. Accessed 15
November 2013. http://greatparchmentbook.wordpress.com.
Moody, T. W. The Londonderry Plantation, 1609-41: the City of
London and the Plantation in Ulster. Belfast: W. Mullan and Son,
1939.
Pal, K., M. Terras, and T. Weyrich. "3D Reconstruction for Damaged
Documents: Imaging of The Great Parchment Book." Proceedings of
2nd Intl. Workshop on Historical Document Imaging and
Processing, Washington DC, August 24, 2013.
Pal K., M. Terras, and T. Weyrich. "Interactive Exploration and
Flattening of Deformed Historical Documents." Computer Graphics
Forum (Proc. Eurographics) 33 (2013): 327–334.
Pal K., D. Panozzo, C. Schüller, O. Sorkine-Hornung, and T. Weyrich,
"Content-Aware Surface Parameterizaation for Interactive Restoration
of Historical Document" Computer Graphics Forum (Proc.
Eurographics) 33(2), 2013.
Pal K., D. Panozzo, C. Schüller, O. Sorkine-Hornung, and T. Weyrich.
"Interactive Restoration of Historical Documents." Conditionally
accepted to Computer Graphics Forum (Proc. Eurographics) 34(2014).
Smith, Philllipa, "The Great Parchment Book Project," ARC Magazine,
294(February), 2014.
Smith, Phillipa, "The Great Parchment Book Project" (Paper Presented
at London Metropolitan Archives International Council on Archives,
2014) URL: http://www.ica.org/15356/activities-projects/the-great-
parchment-book-at-london-metropolitan-archives.html. Accessed 19
March, 2013.
Stewart, P."The Great Parchment Book." (Paper Presented at
Plantation Families: People, Records and Resources, A Family and
Local History Event on the Plantation of Ulster, Belfast, September 27,
2013).
Stewart, P. "The Great Parchment Book." (Paper Presented at
Plantation Families: People, Records and Resources, A Family and
85
Local History Event on the Plantation of Ulster, Londonderry,
September 28, 2013).
Exhibitions
Plantation: Process, People, Perspectives. Derry Guildhall, June 10
2013-2015.
86
... Dry cleaning of the sheets was performed by means of a soft brush and a chemical sponge only where the inks were not flaking off. Repairs were carried out only on areas where handling during digitization would have compromised the integrity of the sheets ( Avery et al., 2013;De Stefani, 2012). The digitization started as soon as the treatments on each sheet were completed. ...
Article
Full-text available
The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable the Irish Society is a major surviving historical record of the estates of the county of Londonderry (in modern day Northern Ireland). It contains key data about landholding and population in the Irish province of Ulster and the city of Londonderry and its environs in the mid-17th century, at a time of social, religious, and political upheaval. Compiled in 1639, it was severely damaged in a fire in 1786, and due to the fragile state of the parchment, its contents have been mostly inaccessible since. We describe here a long-term, interdisciplinary, international partnership involving conservators, archivists, computer scientists, and digital humanists that developed a low-cost pipeline for conserving, digitizing, 3D-reconstructing, and virtually flattening the fire-damaged, buckled parchment, enabling new readings and understanding of the text to be created. For the first time, this article presents a complete overview of the project, detailing the conservation, digital acquisition, and digital reconstruction methods used, resulting in a new transcription and digital edition of the text in time for the 400th anniversary celebrations of the building of Londonderry’s city walls in 2013. We concentrate on the digital reconstruction pipeline that will be of interest to custodians of similarly fire-damaged historical parchment, whilst highlighting how working together on this project has produced an online resource that has focussed community reflection upon an important, but previously inaccessible, historical text.
... Notes 24 Ericsson 2006. 25 Avery et al. 2013;Pal et al. 2013a;Pal et al. 2013b. 26 Kautek et al.1998. ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter describes a highly collaborative project in digital humanities, which used tools and expertise from a diverse range of disciplines: medical physics, image science, and conservation. We describe this collaboration through three examples: the use of phantoms taken from medical physics, a historically accurate model of parchment degradation, and a detailed description of the steps taken to run experiments and collect data within a manageable budget. Each example highlights how procedures from a discipline were adapted for the project through collaboration. Whilst conservation focuses on developing methods to best preserve cultural heritage documents, we describe an unusual collaboration between conservation and image science to document through multispectral imaging the deliberate damage of a manuscript. Multispectral imaging has been utilised to examine cultural heritage documents by providing information about their physical properties. However, current digitisation efforts concentrate on recording documents in their current state. In this project, we aimed at recording the process of macroscopic document degradation using multispectral imaging, and the digital recovery of the writing using standard image processing methodologies. This project's success lay in the intersection of knowledge of the processes of parchment deterioration and the specific processes that occur when a document is imaged: this has permitted us to construct a more successful and informed experiment. The knowledge acquired during the project allows us to address the issues related to the recovery of information from damaged parchment documents, and to determine which research questions can be addressed, and through which imaging methodology.
... 24 Ericsson 2006. 25 Avery et al. 2013;Pal et al. 2013a;Pal et al. 2013b. 26 Kautek et al.1998. ...
Chapter
New technologies have always introduced new possibilities but these invariably bring fresh problems with them. The expansion and wider availability of digitised teaching content is no exception and there are now new affordances but as a result new questions need to be asked about our teaching practice. Academics within the same departments have always shared teaching materials but a cultural change is taking place in universities, with academics using the internet to share their research (Open Access) and teaching and learning resources (OER: Open Educational Resources) more widely. This chapter draws on the experience of completed Jisc and the Higher Education Academy funded projects for the creation, use, and importantly reuse of OERs. These themes are developed, drawing on the experiences of the Digital Classicist, the Stoa Consortium and other open initiatives in Classical Studies, such as OpenLearn at the Open University and so situating these ideas within the sphere of the teaching of Classics. As part of this research a systematic search for Classics teaching material was conducted in the major UK repositories and beyond revealing a paucity in discrete classroom based learning-objects and hence raises more questions. This chapter also makes suggestions for best practice in the production of OERs and calls for the establishment of recognised standards.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Digitization of historical documents is extremely useful as it allows easy access to the documents from remote locations and removes the need for potentially harmful physical handling. Traditional imaging methods are unsuitable for documents with complex geometry as they will produce images containing perspective distortions, and 3D imaging methods previously proposed for document scanning will often suffer from occlusions and/or require manual alignment of individual range scans. We present a lightweight pipeline for imaging and generating 3D reconstructions of severely damaged and distorted documents which exhibit such complex geometry. We demonstrate our pipeline on The Great Parchment Book of The Honourable The Irish Society, a 17th century survey of the Ulster estates managed by the City of London, which was severely damaged by a fire in 1786.
Article
We present an interactive application for browsing severely damaged documents and other cultural artefacts. Such documents often contain strong geometric distortions such as wrinkling, buckling, and shrinking and cannot be flattened physically due to the high risk of causing further damage. Previous methods for virtual restoration involve globally flattening a 3D reconstruction of the document to produce a static image. We show how this global approach can fail in cases of severe geometric distortion, and instead propose an interactive viewer which allows a user to browse a document while dynamically flattening only the local region under inspection. Our application also records the provenance of the reconstruction by displaying the reconstruction side by side with the original image data.
Article
We present an interactive method to restore severely damaged historical parchments. When damaged by heat in a fire, such manuscripts undergo a complex deformation and contain various geometric distortions such as wrinkling, buckling, and shrinking, rendering them nearly illegible. They cannot be physically flattened due to the risk of further damage. We propose a virtual restoration framework to estimate the non-rigid deformation the parchment underwent and to revert it, making reading the text significantly easier whilst maintaining the veracity of the textual content. We estimate the deformation by combining automatically extracted constraints with user-provided hints informed by domain knowledge. We demonstrate that our method successfully flattens and straightens the text on a variety of pages scanned from a 17th century document which fell victim to fire damage.
Great Parchment Book Project" (Paper presented at Opposites Attract: Science and Archives, London Metropolitan Archives
  • D Stefani
D. Stefani, C. "Great Parchment Book Project" (Paper presented at Opposites Attract: Science and Archives, London Metropolitan Archives, March 21, 2014.)
The Great Parchment Book: Conserving, Digitally Reconstructing, Transcribing, and Publishing the Manuscript Known as the Great Parchment Book
  • Archives London Metropolitan
London Metropolitan Archives, The Great Parchment Book: Conserving, Digitally Reconstructing, Transcribing, and Publishing the Manuscript Known as the Great Parchment Book. Accessed 15 November 2013. http://greatparchmentbook.wordpress.com.
Interactive Restoration of Historical Documents
  • K Pal
  • D Panozzo
  • C Schüller
  • O Sorkine-Hornung
  • T Weyrich
Pal K., D. Panozzo, C. Schüller, O. Sorkine-Hornung, and T. Weyrich. "Interactive Restoration of Historical Documents." Conditionally accepted to Computer Graphics Forum (Proc. Eurographics) 34(2014).
The Great Parchment Book Project
  • Philllipa Smith
Smith, Philllipa, "The Great Parchment Book Project," ARC Magazine, 294(February), 2014.
The Great Parchment Book Project" (Paper Presented at London Metropolitan Archives International Council on Archives
  • Phillipa Smith
Smith, Phillipa, "The Great Parchment Book Project" (Paper Presented at London Metropolitan Archives International Council on Archives, 2014) URL: http://www.ica.org/15356/activities-projects/the-greatparchment-book-at-london-metropolitan-archives.html. Accessed 19 March, 2013.