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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Cultural Heritage Imaging

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts, Culture & Humanities, Management & Technical Assistance, Technology

Mission: Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) drives development and adoption of practical digital imaging and preservation solutions for people passionate about saving humanity's treasures today, before they are lost.

Results: The application of computational photography techniques for cultural heritage has seen a dramatic increase because of our programs over the last 15+ years. Better, more precise digital information has been and is continuing to be collected in support of monitoring, preservation, research, and education. For example, Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI) is a low-cost method for examining fine surface details of subjects. Because of our effort to absorb research and create user-friendly tools for this method, we have created a growing community of professionals who can support each other in applying the technique. In a similar vein, we provide guidance, training, and instructional materials on photogrammetry, a portable and powerful technique that yields extremely dense and precise 3D surface data. By now both RTI and photogrammetry are in broad use in art conservation, archaeology, the natural sciences, and other disciplines. More recently, we initiated our "Digital Lab Notebook" project to provide software tools and instructional materials that simplify the collection of scientific, standards-based metadata. This program is influencing the way cultural institutions conduct historic documentation and research.

Target demographics: All people who care about cultural, historic, and artistic treasures.

Direct beneficiaries per year: People all over the world who downloaded free software and user guides and participated in our free user forums. In addition, 40-100 people annually attend in-person training classes in imaging techniques. The website receives approximately 3000 visitors per month, and downloads average 500 per month (for all software and guides combined). Our instructional videos get over 1000 plays per month. Our free user forums site has over 1000 people registered. In the forums the community can ask and answer questions about the imaging technologies and how to deploy them.

Geographic areas served: We work internationally to produce scientific digital imaging tools and methodology.

Programs: CHI makes open source software, user guides, and instructional videos freely available on its website, materials that are broadly used by an international audience. We also offer training classes in advanced, scientific, yet easy-to-learn imaging techniques that are low cost and use off-the-shelf digital cameras.

Community Stories

35 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Cultural Heritage Imaging is firmly dedicated to provide the skills, knowledge, and tools to capture high quality data using easily accessible and economical tools. In their trainings they simultaneously help those coming from near zero background quickly get up and running, with methods to ensure reliable capture of data, as well as helping advanced and near expert users improve workflows and solve more complex problems. Additionally they are great friends of and advocates for the community, creating forums for sharing of knowledge and driving the creation of tools and software.

2 cciccone

Client Served

Rating: 5

As a collections photographer in the cultural heritage sector, I had been aware of CHI for some time before my institution hosted them to conduct a four day Photogrammetry workshop. The experience was outstanding. There is a bewildering amount of often contradictory material online regarding the techniques and uses of photogrammetry and photogrammetry software, but Carla and Mark from CHI gave us a thorough grounding in methodology for achieving scientifically sound results. They made the technique accessible in both practical and theoretical terms and provided excellent practical guidance. Highly recommended.

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHI in San Francisco is an invaluable resource for imaging professionals in museums who are working to preserve, and provide access to, the collections they serve. Advanced computational imaging is the next iteration of photography for cultural heritage institutions, and the methods, instruction, and guidance the team at CHI provides is helping to make that transition with accuracy and integrity. The photogrammetric models produced by CHI's methods are accurate to within 1/10th of a millimeter. In Cleveland we are undertaking the reconfiguration of a collection highlight, a large stone Cambodian Krishna holding up Mount Govardan. It was put together in the 1970s from various fragments and, due to new scholarship, our conservators are deconstructing it to remount it with a slightly different posture and with a crucial additional element left out of the prior effort. The photogrammetric model I made of the previous configuration has provided valuable metrics for the project. From the methods learned at CHI, the model was able to provide us with highly accurate volumes for both the overall object, and the various component pieces; and when those volumes were coupled to the density of the stone, accurate weights were produced which helped greatly in the decisions on mounting materials and methods. And then this model of the prior configuration will also provide an opportunity for next generation exhibition didactics to explain the entire process. None of this would be possible without the guidance of Carla, Mark, and the rest of the team at CHI. They provide lucid and well thought out instruction in their workshops, and enthusiastic and cheerful support afterwards. I recommend them highly.

Howard Agriesti
Chief Photographer
Head of Photographic and Digital Imaging
The Cleveland Museum of Art

3 Brian C.3

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I've taken two training courses with CHI. I took their 4-day course on Photogrammetry in the fall of 2016, then took their Reflectance Transformation Imaging course in the summer of 2018. Both were fantastic. I feel far more confident and prepared to use these technologies in my work than I ever would have trying to teach myself. Their studio space is very well equipped, and the instructors were all very friendly, supportive, and extremely knowledgeable. There is just no substitute for the kinds of hands-on learning they offer. In addition to all of that, they are recognized leaders in advancing computation photography methods and practice. I cannot commend them and their work highly enough.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I learned so much from the CHI-led photogrammetry workshop I attended last year. A year later, they are still helping me by fielding questions and offering advice on equipment and methodology. I am a paleoanthropologist working on using photogrammetry to create scientific-quality 3D models of human and fossil hominin skeletal material, and could not do this without the help of the CHI team! In my work, the accuracy of the shape of the models is paramount, because we use the 3D models to compare measurements between species; CHI's method works great for this, leading to models comparable to or better than those created with various 3D scanners. I definitely would recommend their training and expertise to any scientist interested in making accurate 3D models.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I participated in a recent 4-day RTI workshop with CHI at their SF lab on behalf of my museum. We will be using RTI to support research on a global collection across a wide range of objects, from ancient coins to contemporary prints. The small size of the workshop group of 5 was great; we got tons of hands-on practice shooting small and large objects with vertical and horizontal setups. Mornings were given over to training and lecture in one of four areas (capture, processing, viewing + dissemination, and current research on/with RTI), and afternoons were for practice. In a typical afternoon, we would be able to setup and capture 1-2 objects in small teams, and then process and view the RTIs. Because CHI had multiple camera setups and loads of equipment for us to play with, we got to work in pairs and experiment with different equipment, different objects and materials (coins, boxes, masks, prints), and different setups each day. I came away from the training understanding not only the process but the underlying concepts of RTI and completely prepared to come back to my institution, begin using the technique right away, and train others in it as well. I would (and will) recommend CHI to my colleagues, and will hope to be able to come back for photogrammetry training.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

CHI's 4-day RTI training was exemplary in every way. The combination of lecture and hands-on experience was ideal for learning a new skill that is both conceptual and practical. Carla, Mark, and Merlin are all incredibly knowledgable and generous with their time and insights. Given the small class size (5 total), instruction was tailored to fit my individual interests, maximizing opportunities to practice capturing, processing, and viewing images like those I intend to generate as part of my doctoral research. As an art history student, computational photography training is hard to come by, and these four days have already proven to be absolutely essential for my current project and professional ambitions.

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was not familiar with CHI until recently, when I attended a week-long workshop on photogrammetry. As a beginner in this technical area of cultural heritage, I could have felt overwhelmed but the CHI experts guided us all through the information at the level that suited each of our skill levels. I'm looking forwarding to putting the training into practice! I must also say that it is always great to learn from the experts who are not only up-to-date on the current practice but are pushing the envelope forwarding and innovating the field.

3 ahershko

Client Served

Rating: 5

Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) has been an incredible help to me in my career as a digital humanist. I first encountered them when I used their documentation, program, and supply kit to carry out Reflectance Transformation Imaging while on a Fulbright fellowship in Athens, Greece. Their materials and instructions were comprehensive and clear, and enabled me to create digital records of stone inscriptions of a quality previously only rivaled by paper negatives (i.e. squeezes) or charcoal rubbings, both of which processes can harm the stone.

I subsequently undertook a week-long intensive training class in photogrammetry with CHI at their headquarters in San Francisco. Carla, Mark, and Marlin were all wonderful teachers, and I not only had a wonderful time and made some lasting and important contacts in my field, I also walked away able to implement the technique by myself and even teach it to colleagues. Indeed, I returned to Athens to carry out photogrammetry at the Museum of the Ancient Agora, and later presented the results of my RTI and photogrammetry work on inscriptions at a conference held at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.

In March of 2017, I attended a symposium organized by CHI at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. There, in addition to renewing my previous contacts and making even more, I also saw a presentation about how to build a dome to carry out RTI. With a colleague from Rutgers University, I built a dome to image some of the coins from the Badian Coin Collection in the Rutgers Libraries, and for our project we were recognized with an award from the New York City Digital Humanities group.

Everyone at CHI has always been exceptionally helpful and friendly, and I really could not think of a group more important in my movement from traditional classical philologist to digital humanist. I cannot recommend enough their products and services!

4 Eric J.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Last fall I attended a four-day workshop on scientific photogrammetry for cultural heritage put on by the staff of Cultural Heritage Imaging and I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with them and with the whole experience. I came into the workshop with high appreciation of but pretty minimal personal familiarity with photogrammetric techniques and left having been taught an incredible amount information, giving me the best possible basis for growing my own expertise. They were organized, thoughtful, thorough, and careful in their instruction, whether discussing broad backgrounds and philosophies of photogrammetry or the nuances of specific techniques. CHI is passionate about making these important and accessible to cultural heritage and educational institutions and are committed to ensuring that practitioners do it *right* so that results have scientific value and serve the mission of our organizations. Their deep familiarity with technologies, techniques, and cultural heritage practices meant that they were ready to answer any question we sent their way. A wonderful and helpful group of true professionals. I could not recommend them more highly.

5 Joan T. N.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I recently took a workshop in photogrammetry through CHI. It was something totally new me, to use in my Conservation photography.The instructors had much enthusiasm and knowledge in their field ,each with their own expertise to share with us ! We all got to work in groups to photograph art objects and then produce 3D images in the computer - Photoscan program with CHI's help ,a printed booklet and talks that were given.
J. Neubecker

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

I've attended the course on Photogrammetry for scientific imaging by CHI last September. I was very impressed by their professional and scientific approach to imaging, with a strong focus on attaining repeatable and true to life photogrammetry data, as opposed to generating mere pretty models of the artefacts.
The level of competence demonstrated by the staff throughout the four days was amazing. The lectures, hands-on sessions, and the manual all complemented each other to allow the trainees to quickly develop the basic skills needed and to carry on improving on a self-taught basis.
I have been working in Cultural Heritage for many years and the kind of training provided by CHI covers (and exceeds) all the basic criteria I would expect from a course of this kind. Highly recommended.

5 Kevin G.1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I recently had the opportunity to attend a CHI training course on photogrammetry. I learned more in the four days with them than I had trying to learn the process by myself over the last two years. I fully support their mission to bring novel technological/preservation skills to heritage professionals and the public through their outreach and education. They are focused, passionate, engaging folks who are making a marked impact on the capabilities of those who are able to attend their workshops. I feel I cannot overstate that last sentiment enough: CHI is doing their part to help usher in the future of cultural heritage preservation and public engagement for our shared, irreplaceable cultural resources. While many in the class I attended came from a museum or a curations background, I was there to find new ways to apply photogrammetry to archaeological research. The instructors often took time to address my specific questions about field applications and throughout the workshop would think of ways I could utilize the methods being taught in the types of environment I am likely to encounter.

I highly recommend the CHI team and their work. I look forward to learning more with them in the future.

5

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHI provides an invaluable course in photogrammetry for anyone involved in Cultural Heritage. I would recommend their course to any photographer as an absolute must if your institution is looking to get into photogrammetry. The hands on training, the peer learning, and the materials you will have once completing the course should be in everyones desk.

5

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHI's training courses exceed expectations. They value the importance of hands on experience which is critical for retention of these complex imaging modalities. They teach methods that promote scientific integrity which is imperative when adopting to a proper cultural heritage institution workflow. I learned much more than expected and have no doubt in my ability to successfully integrate these processes into my own professional workflow.

6

Client Served

Rating: 5

CHI offers in depth yet accessible training in computational imaging. Their staff clearly holds true passion towards advancing the field and teaching others. I highly recommend taking one of their training courses to anyone associated with the cultural heritage field.

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHI is an amazing organization that functions in the truest sense of a non-profit. Their focus is on sharing their knowledge, educating the cultural heritage community, and developing open source tools to help that community thrive!

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Cultural Heritage Imaging (CHI) has made an enormous knowledge contribution to the museum community. Scientifically accurate 3-D imaging is rapidly becoming a core methodology serving conservators, scholars, preservationists, and casual learners. The current rapid expansion of 3-D photogrammetry for documentation of cultural heritage collections is largely due to the trainings conducted by CHI, both at their own facility and remotely at institutions worldwide. In addition to formal training the CHI team freely share their sophisticated refinement of the photogrammetry process through participation in conferences, workshops and museum community listserves. In my opinion those responsible for imaging of many of the world's most significant cultural heritage collections would not be capturing quality 3D image data without the research, dedication, and spirit of openness that CHI provides.

5

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

CHI has for years and years engaged with both the cultural heritage professionals they serve and the academic communities that invent the new technologies they use. Their training programs are often backed by grants that they received jointly with universities. Why does this matter? They are constantly challenged by expert researchers on the technical side as well as the arts and humanities side. In my work with them I have found them to be extremely competent at what they do.

6

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

One of the best and most dedicated non-profits in the cultural heritage field I have ever encountered. They go above and beyond with every project they tackle and their philosophy about sharing their knowledge and data with the public is amazing. Truly a heart-warming experience working with them-could not recommend them more!