What is the Virtual Restoration

In this blog I’m going to show you the progress of my work of digital restoration on some Etruscan artifacts from the tomb number 5 of Monte Michele, in Veio (Lazio, Italy). But before starting, I find it necessary to give you a short introduction on what is a virtual restoration process and why it is useful.

Patera found in the Regolini-Galassi tomb. This drawing was made in 1999 by L. di Blasi to show the restoration (image by Vatican Museums)

Patera found in the Regolini-Galassi tomb. This drawing was made in 1999 by L. di Blasi to show the restoration (image by Vatican Museums)

Virtual restoration of the engraving of the patera (made by Visual Dimension)

Virtual restoration of the engraving of the patera (made by Visual Dimension)

Virtual Restoration and Museums

One of the main goals of contemporary museology is to transform the XIXth century concept of “Museum” in something appealing for XXIst century visitors. Of course this must be done in the full respect of the identity of the museums. These are, on the one hand, permanent institutions open to the public and in the service of society, and on the other hand, they have the duty to acquire, conserve, research, communicate and exhibit objects which are material evidence of people and their environment, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment.

This means that the museums have the responsibility of the objects they own: they have to take care of their physical conditions, maintain their integrity and prevent any further damage through restoration. This has to be done in parallel with the study of the object itself and the communication of the results to the visitors.

Virtual restoration is one of the possibilities that today the technology offers to museums to improve their activity of research and to popularize their knowledge.

What is the virtual restoration?

The Virtual restoration is a scientific process of study and reconstruction of an object which, thanks to the use of modern technologies and software, allows us to show its aspect before its damage or degradation. It is a non-invasive operation for the artifact that has several advantages when employed in a museum.

A restorer who works on physical object has to follow a precise ethical code in order to preserve the object itself and the scientific aim of his work. He has to respect the unique character of the object, the original materials and consider their natural ageing processes. For this reason he has to limit his intervention to the absolute minimum. The result is an object preserved in its materials but not always complete in its appearance.

Sometimes this operation can be not enough to meet the second need of museums: the communication of objects to the public. As a matter of fact, watching a fragmentary object can be really puzzling for the nonprofessional visitors of a museum. This is true especially for the archeological objects, which have been produced in a different culture: most of the time it is really hard today to trace back what they were and what they were used for.

Restored silver and gold patera from Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo by Daniel Pletinckx)

Restored silver and gold patera from Regolini-Galassi tomb (photo by Daniel Pletinckx)

Digitally restored patera. 3D visualization test (image by CNR-ITABC)

Digitally restored patera. 3D visualization test (image by CNR-ITABC)

Show the digital restoration of these kind of artifacts near to the real objects can be enormously helpful for the public: in this way people can have a complete view of how they were looking like.

A virtually restored artifact can also be used in more elaborate projects, for example it could be inserted in its original environment or shown in the position in which it has been found by archeologists: in this way it become immediately clear which was its context and what it was used for.

Virtually restored situla from Regolini-Galassi tomb (image by CNR-ITABC)

Digitally restored situla from Regolini-Galassi tomb (image by CNR-ITABC)

Reconstruction of Regolini-Galassi tomb (Etruscanning application). In the background the situla is shown in the position the archeologist supposed it has in the tomb.

Reconstruction of Regolini-Galassi tomb (Etruscanning application). In the background the situla is shown in the position the archeologist supposed it was in the tomb.

Thanks to modern technologies, museums are also able to give the public the opportunity to interact whit the virtualized objects, allowing the visitor to customize its exploration.

Virtual reconstruction of Regolini-Galassi tomb shows in the exhibition on Etruscans in the National Museum of Antiquities, in Leiden (14/10/2011 - 18/03/2012). In the background the casas in which there were shown the artifacts.

Virtual reconstruction of Regolini-Galassi tomb showed in the exhibition on Etruscans in the National Museum of Antiquities, in Leiden (14/10/2011 – 18/03/2012). In the background the cases in which the artifacts were shown.

 

To conclude, I would like to emphasize this important concept: even if a virtual restoration does not imply an action on the real object, never the less it is the result of a thorough research on it. The technique used to create and decorate it, the tools employed, the style, the unique character of the handmade production are carefully studied, in order to create a copy of the artifact as close as possible to the original one.

In future posts I will show you in detail the progress of my work.

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6 thoughts on “What is the Virtual Restoration

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