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Oxford e-Research Centre University of Oxford, UK PROTECTING CULTURAL HERITAGE IN TIMES OF CONFLICT Framing meeting Académie Diplomatique Internationale.

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Presentation on theme: "Oxford e-Research Centre University of Oxford, UK PROTECTING CULTURAL HERITAGE IN TIMES OF CONFLICT Framing meeting Académie Diplomatique Internationale."— Presentation transcript:

1 Oxford e-Research Centre University of Oxford, UK PROTECTING CULTURAL HERITAGE IN TIMES OF CONFLICT Framing meeting Académie Diplomatique Internationale Paris, le 27 Mai 2013 The ProCulture Project Le Projet pour Protéger le Patrimoine Culturel -using technology to protect cultural heritage objects from looting and to facilitate their recovery © David Shotton, 2013 Published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Licence e-mail: David Shotton

2 Interpol recovers stolen art treasure This head of King Sanatruq I of Hatra, dating from 2nd century AD, was looted from the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, among 15,000 other looted items A leading Italian archaeologist from the University of Turin, who had participated in the archaeological dig in Hatra, recognised the sculpture in an Al Jazeera television report broadcast in June 2006 The archaeologist informed Interpol, and was able to provide documentation which contained the inventory number assigned to the statue by the Iraq Museum This looted object was then retrieved by Interpol in April 2007 from the home of a well-known Lebanese decorator, who had featured in the Al Jazeera documentary This example demonstrates the importance of images and of documentation in the recovery of looted cultural heritage objects In the ProCulture Project, we will preemptively use state-of-the-art image matching and semantic documentation techniques to record at-risk cultural heritage objects, so that they might later be identified if looted and offered for sale elsewhere

3 Protecting cultural heritage objects – the ProCulture Project Local museum curators in high-risk areas photograph each object using a mobile phone  Metadata include date and GPS They also photograph any associated documentation or catalogue information They upload these photos to the ProCulture Database, keeping copies We will store and index the images We will perform OCR (optical character recognition) to convert images of textual documentation to processable text We will mine the text for relevant documentary information, and will record it in a structured searchable manner If, after looting, an object of doubtful provenance turns up in a Paris auction room, a photograph of it can be taken and used to search the ProCulture Database

4 Image matching using ‘Visual Google’ Developed by Professor Andrew Zisserman, Oxford University Employs state-of-the-art image processing technology Uses an image (in this case of part of photo of a sculpture) to search for similar images in a database of images Visual Google retrieves the original image (top) and three related images of the same object

5 How it works – searching for ‘visual words’ An image..... is a bag of ‘visual words’ Visual Google searches for other images containing the same ‘visual words’, just as Google searches for web pages containing textual search terms

6 ... it works! The same visual word SearchFind

7 Another example – an image on a broken pot Processing is rapid and fully automatic The search results are unaffected by magnification, contrast, colour and image rotation

8 Another example, this time based on shape Search image: Henry Moore’s Oval with Points From this image, generate boundary descriptors that are also used in searches as ‘visual words’ Retrieved images (from Flickr):  Same shape, different instances, different materials, different sizes

9 The importance of documentation - Rodin’s sculpture of Balzac In 1891, le Société des Gens des Lettres commissioned Auguste Rodin to create a statue to honour the great French writer Honoré de Balzac Rodin finally created the statue in plaster in 1897, but it drew hostile criticism The statue was never cast in bronze until after Rodin’s death in 1917 It is now regarded as one of his finest and most iconic works I wondered how many ‘Balzac’s’ exist?

10 Other instances of ‘Balzac’ that I found In the garden of Hôtel Biron, Paris Rue Montparnasse Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan

11 Event-centric documentation for Balzac’s sculpture The writer Honoré de Balzac Creative act of sculpture Casting Bronze casting of ‘Balzac’, edition of 12 Plaster version of ‘Balzac’ Auguste Rodin (1840 - 1917) Rudier et Fils Commission from Le Société des Gens des Lettres, 1891 [1897, Paris] [1939, Paris] Cast #8 at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, Ca.

12 Event-centric documentation for King Sanatruq’s bust King Sanatruq (140-180 AD) Creative act of sculpture Excavation and re-discovery Display in National Museum of Iraq Limestone bust of King Sanatruq Unknown sculptor (Kingdom of Hatra) Centro Scavi di Torino in Iraq [~178 AD] [1963 -, Hatra] Museum catalogue information Archeological inventory and provenance information Museum curators

13 Relationship to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme Clearly, our vision is similar to that of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme  “The vision of the Memory of the World Programme is that the world's documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance” The ProCulture Project differs, however, in the following ways: It focuses on physical objects of all sorts, not just documents It is specifically designed to protect against looting and theft in high-risk areas The technology used to photograph the objects and their documentation is deliberately easy, cheap, low-tech and universal – the mobile phone It is behind the scenes that sophisticated technology is employed, both for image matching and semantic description, to facilitate subsequent recovery  The latter will use the event-centric CIDOC-CRM data model developed specifically for describing cultural heritage objects, and will encode the data using RDF, the format used for linked data sharing on the Web

14 The cultural heritage of Mali under threat Centre de Recherches Historiques Ahmed Baba, Tombouctou Home to ~23,000 Islamic religious, historical and scientific texts from all over the world The oldest manuscripts date from the 12th century In January 2013, the library was burned by retreating insurgents (However, the bulk of the manuscripts had been removed and hidden, and are undamaged) Here, specifically, the ProCulture Project has much in common with the UNESCO Memory of the World Timbuktu Manuscripts Project, and can help by enabling ‘quick and dirty’ documentation, in advance of professional high- resolution scanning which can be slow and expensive

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