Preserving our heritage digitally is really important to me so the news that the Google Cultural Institute is using its Art Camera to make it easier to preserve the world’s art in extremely high definition really appeals to me.
The Art Camera is no ordinary DSLR. The images are gigapixel images (gigapixel = 1 billion pixels, DSLRs tend to be in the tens of millions of pixels) and the camera is robotic:
The Art Camera is a robotic camera, custom-built to create gigapixel images faster and more easily. A robotic system steers the camera automatically from detail to detail, taking hundreds of high resolution close-ups of the painting. To make sure the focus is right on each brush stroke, it’s equipped with a laser and a sonar that—much like a bat—uses high frequency sound to measure the distance of the artwork. Once each detail is captured, our software takes the thousands of close-up shots and, like a jigsaw, stitches the pieces together into one single image.
You can view images from the Art Camera on the Google Cultural Institute’s website in a specific album. I’m sure all this feeds into Google’s goal of organizing the world’s information but that doesn’t matter. Remember what ISIS did to Palmyra? Even if you take radicals out of the picture, material things wear over time and we have a rich cultural heritage that we should preserve for future generations and this is a great way to do it.
I have stacks of old slide photos of my family when I was a child that I’d love to have digitised. These are photos I haven’t seen for decades and will give my children more insight into my childhood and into my parents (especially my late father who they never met). I also make multiple backups of my RAW and processed photos, locally and in the cloud.
We had maybe a dozen or two images and documents from grandparents and great-grandparents when we were young. Our children will have huge volumes of data and media available to them. Well, if they want it and assuming some cataclysmic event doesn’t send humanity back to the Middle Ages.
Other great examples of local organisations working to preserve our heritage include –
The more we can digitise and preserve, the more our descendants will be able to learn about us and our history. This applies to our shared heritage as well as our personal and family heritages. You simply can’t fully understand who you are and where you are going without understanding where you came from.