Our partners at UCL have announced the publication of a major paper describing the process of conserving, imaging, virtually flattening, and finally reading the Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish Society, held in London Metropolitan Archives. As followers of this blog will know the project saw archivists, conservators, imaging scientists, historians, computer scientists, and digital humanities experts working together in an interdisciplinary, international partnership. We developed a low-cost process for conserving, digitizing, 3D-reconstructing, and virtually flattening the fire-damaged, buckled parchment, enabling new readings and understanding of the text to be created.
The paper, published in Oxford University Press’s Digital Scholarship in the Humanities journal, presents a complete overview of the project, detailing the conservation, digital acquisition, and digital reconstruction methods used. It is freely available in open access, meaning anyone can read the details of the project, and see our images and videos to understand the scope and scale of the project, and its contribution to the restoration of the Great Parchment Book. It is freely available online.
Note: Please use the hashtag #greatparchmentbook when referring to the project on social media.
Significance of the project for some of the key partners
Professor Tim Weyrich, Professor of Visual Computing, Virtual Environments and Computer Graphics Group, Department of Computer Science, University College London, lead of the digital acquisition and reconstruction said: “I feel privileged having been able to conduct computer science and imaging research in the context of a project of such cultural importance. We were fortunate enough that the engagement with the humanities’ unique problem domain allowed us to go beyond mere application of known techniques, pushing the boundary in our own research field while making a tangible difference to the wider public.”
Edward Montgomery, Secretary of The Honourable The Irish Society, said: “We are delighted that The Honourable The Irish Society has been part of a major collaborative project to bring The Great Parchment Book, one of its most historic documents, ‘back to life’. The Book is a marvellous testament to history and provides a detailed account from 1639 of the City of London’s role in the Plantation of Ulster and its administration. It is a valuable tool for anyone interested in their ancestral history within Ulster and an excellent teaching aid for those exploring early modern Ireland.”
Geoff Pick, Director of London Metropolitan Archives said: “The City of London Corporation, through London Metropolitan Archives, has been delighted to be a major partner in the Great Parchment Book project, one of the most innovative in the archive sector in recent years. It places great value on the Book, not least in helping the City’s support for the 400th anniversary of the building of Derry’s city walls in 2013 and the state visit to London of the President of Ireland in 2014. The Book has also been recognised by UNESCO as being of outstanding national importance this year when it was inscribed on the UK Memory of the World Register, the first on the Register concerning Northern Ireland.”
Professor Melissa Terras, Director of UCL Centre for Digital Humanities said: “It has been a pleasure to work on this project, which has brought together expertise from so many different angles, allowing us to finally provide advanced access to this important, but very damaged, document. The conservation, imaging, and reconstruction have all contributed to the creation of a digital resource of lasting value for researchers, students, and the wider public. Our work encourages further understanding of the role of the City of London in the plantation, and the importance of the Great Parchment Book to its local, national, and international contexts. It also shows us the benefits of undertaking advanced digital projects in the area of cultural heritage.”
Full citation details
Pal, K., Avery, N., Boston, P., Campagnolo, A., De Stefani, C., Matheson-Pollock, H., Panozzo, D., Payne, M., Schüller, C., Sanderson, C., Scott, C., Smith, P., Smither, R., Sorkine-Hornung, O., Stewart, A., Stewart, E., Stewart, P., Terras, M., Walsh, B., Ward, L., Yamada, L., Weyrich, T. (2016). “Digitally reconstructing the Great Parchment Book: 3D recovery of fire-damaged historical documents” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Oxford University Press.