Replica Project: building ARCHiVe

Replica table © Noemi La Pera
Replica flashes © Francesca Occhi
Replica aluminium structure © Francesca Occhi
ARCHiVe team using Replica © Joan Porcel

2015 – 2018

This project gave rise to ARCHiVe, marking the first collaborative effort among the three partner organizations (Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Factum Foundation, and EPFL DHLAB). It tested the synergy of these entities for the first time, setting an ambitious goal achievable only through the collective effort of all involved. 

The Project

The Fondazione Giorgio Cini preserves an extremely rich iconographic photo library, encompassing local and international art history, architecture, urbanism, and culture. It comprises approximately 730,000 photographic positives stored in the photo libraries of the Institute of Art History. 

The Replica project addresses two crucial issues: 

  • How to rapidly digitise this vast number of documents while preserving the original heritage and ensuring optimal technological accuracy. 
  • How to make the resulting database quickly searchable without the necessity of relying solely on textual search methods. 

To meet the first of these needs, Factum has specifically designed a circular scanner (Replica 360 recto/verso) for digitising the Historic Photo Library in the most efficient way possible. Additionally, Factum has equipped Replica with software that allows for the storage of data and metadata (such as the file and its archival position, ID number, and other essential details) during the digitisation process. In this manner, Fondazione Giorgio Cini has initiated the creation of an extensive database of images and information. This substantial volume of data is being stored and analysed by the Digital Humanities Lab at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. 

 In order to develop a geometrically-based search engine for this database, DHLAB team conducted their research focusing on recognising patterns of similarities in the pictures of the Historic Photo Library. DHLAB incorporated one of the most advanced technologies in artificial intelligence, known as ‘deep learning,’ into the process. By leveraging a vast network of artificial neurons, a capability only recently achievable in image processing, various forms of visual entities can be simultaneously analysed in a unified approach. 

In the realm of machine learning experimentation, DHLAB also devised an automatic segmentation process that separates text and images, subsequently annotating them. 

In fact, the Historic Photo Library comprises thousands of photographic positives dating from the beginning of the 20th century until the 90s, affixed to cardboards, with each displaying additional information such as the subject, location, date, and the artist of the depicted artwork. 

objectives

The aim of the project is the digitisation and enhancement of Fondazione Giorgio Cini Photo Libraries through innovative mass recording and analysis techniques.

The overarching objective is to enable the online availability of exceptionally large archives. The enhanced computational capacity, tailored to handle specific data, facilitates user searches at various, increasingly refined levels.

Methodologies

1. PRELIMINARY PHASE

The Fondazione Cini conducted a comprehensive check and reordering of the documents stored in the photo libraries. The team subsequently created inventories and tools for metadata collection (thanks to an XML file system associated with the documents), and ID numbers were applied to the back of the positives or their supports.

2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE RECORDING SYSTEM

The team at Factum developed the Scanner Replica 360 Recto/Verso, a unique recording system specifically designed for this project. The prototype of the system was conceived and constructed in Madrid, encompassing both hardware and software components, before being transported to and installed in Venice.

3. RECORDING PHASE

Fondazione Giorgio Cini formulated a dedicated digitisation workflow for the mass recording and storage project.

Within two years from the project’s initiation, the Cini team successfully accomplished the digital acquisition of the Historic Photo Library (671,564 images), the Bruno Alfieri Photo Library (2,073 images), and the Bernard Berenson Photo Library (30,275 images).

4. POST-PROCESSING AND DATA ANALYSIS

EPFL’s research led to the post-processing of the documents, which encompassed segmentation (utilising dhSegment, a segmentation library for complex documents developed at the DHLAB) and the storage of information present on each piece. Simultaneously, the team developed a geometrically based search engine for the established database.

Results

The aim of Fondazione Giorgio Cini is to proceed with the project by digitising the additional photo libraries stored in the Biblioteca Manica Lunga and to make this heritage accessible online.

Technologies

Replica

The Replica 360 Recto/Verso is a cutting edge recording system designed and realised by Factum Foundation. Its first prototype was conceived for Fondazione Cini back in 2015 for the Replica Project wh[...]

Heritage Lab Italgas

Historical images from the photo archives © Italgas
Historical images from the photo archives © Italgas
Historical images from the photo archives © Italgas
Historical images from the photo archives © Italgas
Historical images from the photo archives © Italgas

Heritage Lab is the Italgas museum-laboratory born to digitize the company’s historical heritage and make the most of the narrative potential of its officially recognised archive through continuous exchanges with local, national and international partners, and as part of the vast European Time Machine consortium network.

the project

The Italgas Historical Archive is an ever-growing patrimony, the study of which makes it possible to reconstruct not only the history of the Company and the people who worked there, but above all the links with the main events of the country and with the world of energy, the role Italgas played in the process of industrialization of Italy, urban development and public services. ARCHiVe carried out the project pre-study and drafting, in synergy with other project partners.

Today, Italgas Historical Archive consists of an original nucleus of more than 1,000 linear meters of documents, 6,000 volumes, pamphlets and magazines, 35,000 prints, photographs and posters, 350 vintage equipment and instruments declared of considerable historical interest by the Italian State and subject to notification and conservation restraint.

The Heritage Lab © Italgas
The Heritage Lab © Italgas
The Heritage Lab © Italgas
The Heritage Lab © Italgas
The Heritage Lab © Italgas
The Heritage Lab © Italgas

Education

Collaboration between ARCHiVe and Heritage Lab also takes place in the field of training for operators, involved in the photographic acquisition and description of archives.
Recently, cataloguing and enhancement processes have also begun for the Italgas library, that represents the result of acquisitions and donations over the years.

Finally, in the last year, two training and information events were held within AOA (ARCHiVe Online Academy), with the aim of conveying, to a public not exclusively specialised, the results achieved with a view to a general valorisation of business archives.

Fonti 4.0

Digitisation of magnetic tape © Noemi La Pera
Digitisation of magnetic tape © Noemi La Pera
Magnetic tape digitisation set-up © Noemi La Pera

2021 – 2022

Fonti 4.0 project was set up to respond to the specific needs of the Creative Industries, proposing to create innovative tools for analysis, automatic transcription, use and valorisation of historical sound documents.

© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini

the project

Fondazione Giorgio Cini preserves in its archives the original audio tapes of the voices of the most important Italian and foreign intellectuals of the past, who for over 70 years have frequented the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore for lectures, conferences, seminars, inaugurations and celebrations. Fonti 4.0 aims to speed up the process of digitising oral sources preserved on magnetic tapes, making the content of the documents accessible.

For an initial validation of the technologies used by the Fonti 4.0 project, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini provided the digitisation of four important reels of a conference held in its rooms in 1959 entitled “Cinema e Civiltà”. Among others, speeches by Roberto Rossellini and René Clair can be heard.

objectives

The main objectives of the project are the automatic correction of digitisation errors, the semantic analysis of content transcription, the development of innovative tools for the use and valorisation of digitised sound documents, and the dissemination of the results of the research project, with the aim of transferring technologies and skills to the region.

results

The project concluded with the Living Labs, seven free theoretical and practical workshops open to all, subject to registration, held online by experts in the field.

It was also possible to digitise and publish the original audio of the lecture given by Vittorio Cini at the international conference “The Problem of Venice“, held in San Giorgio on 4 October 1962: one of the rare opportunities to hear the voice of our founder.

The project, funded by the European Social Fund, was selected as worthy of mention and was publicly presented on May 11, 2022, at the IUAV University of Venice, in the context of INVESTOR FAIR (Innovation and Research for a More Competitive Veneto).

Tiziano Terzani Archive

Photographic prints from the Archive © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Digital development of a photographic negative from the Archive © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Photographic negative from the Archive © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Photographic proofs from the Archive © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Photographic proofs from the Archive © Fondazione Giorgio Cini

2017 – 2022

Tiziano Terzani was an Italian journalist and writer. His extensive photo library, along with his personal and professional archive, are now online. Everyone can explore his travels and career by consulting his high-resolution photographs and documents, thanks to the IIIF technology.

the project

The Fondazione Cini Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities, entrusted with safeguarding Tiziano Terzani’s library and archive, has shown a steadfast commitment from the beginning to both preserve and disseminate these valuable sources. 

His writings, notes, press clippings, maps, photographs, and correspondences convey his vision of the world and can provide insights into the places and people he encountered.  

In particular, the photographic fund of the archive – consisting of negatives and positives shot by Terzani himself – serves as a visual testament to Terzani’s journalistic reportages and books, narrating the contemporary story of Asia and the world: the fall of Saigon and the Viet Cong, the fall of Phnom Penh and the reign of the Khmer Rouge, the cultural revolution of Maoist China, and the economic opening of Deng Xiaoping’s China…  

For this reason, the photographic prints have been primarily digitised by ARCHiVe, together with other delicate and relevant sources, prioritising unpublished documents, to preserve them digitally and make them accessible to the public. 

The team at Fondazione Cini, in collaboration with Terzani’s heirs, dedicated scholars and ARCHiVe, worked diligently on the reorganisation of the documents, defining the archival structure, creating an index, and completing the archival description of the documents. The result of this collaborative effort is an extensive digital archive where it is possible to explore Terzani’s career through his articles and pictures, map his travels through his documents, and delve into the stories he narrated. 

All this is now available online through an xml based platform. 

objectives

With the aim of using digitisation as a starting point for studying and enhancing these unique materials, the primary objective of the project was to make the sources available online. To achieve this, it was necessary to reorganise, secure, and digitally record the documents.

Some photo cards of Tiziano Terzani from his Archive, [1955 - 2004] © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
American postcards from Vietnam collected during the writing of the book "Leopard Skin", 1972-1973 © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Notebook with notes from the front, Saigon, 27 April - 4 May 1975 © Fondazione Giorgio Cini
Draft cover of "Giai Phong!", White Lotus edition, 1997 © Fondazione Giorgio Cini

Developments

1. Preparation phase 

Following the archive donation, the Cini team, alongside Terzani’s heirs and dedicated scholars, meticulously examined the documents and planned a comprehensive reorganisation.

2. Establishing a digital archive

The ARCHiVe team, in collaboration with the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities, established an index and refined the archival structure. They constructed a web-based archive utilizing an open-source, native XML database (xDams). The restructuring of the archive and the development of consultation tools were informed by the interconnections and contents of the documents.

3. Recording of the documents

ARCHiVe digitised Terzani’s passports, the press accreditations (890 files) and the documents of the editorial project on Mao (274 files). Additionally, over 8,000 printed photographs, comprising the photographic fund, were recorded on both sides (totalling approximately 16,600 files), then segmented and post-processed using algorithms.

4. Dissemination

From 2022, the archive is now online and open to the public. The archival description will continue to be expanded to provide more detailed information and simplify the consultation. Ongoing efforts also include the digital archiving of materials stored on other media like floppy disks, VHS, and CDs.

Results

The entire Tiziano Terzani archive held by the Fondazione Cini Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities is now accessible online. The celebrated reporter’s documents and thousands of photographs that he took during his countless long stays in Asia, can now be consulted on the Fondazione Giorgio Cini website. 

Technologies

Replica

The Replica 360 Recto/Verso is a cutting edge recording system designed and realised by Factum Foundation. Its first prototype was conceived for Fondazione Cini back in 2015 for the Replica Project wh[...]

Reproduction Stand

The reproduction stand is a system for acquiring two-dimensional material in a small format (approx. 20x30 cm) created within Fondazione Cini. In response to the need to digitise photographic negat[...]

V Scanner

The V Scanner is a photographic set built within Fondazione Cini. Based on an open-access design and adapted to the needs of Cini's book collections, it is meant to acquire bound material quickly and [...]

Seguso Vetri d’Arte Archive

© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini

2018 – 2023

Centro Studi del Vetro and ARCHiVe worked together on digitising and publishing online the entire Seguso Vetri d’Arte Archive, which contains thousands of projects attesting to the varied production of the artists and designers who collaborated with the glassworks from 1932 to 1973.

The project

The historic Seguso forge became a company in 1933, during a period of great innovation and manufacturing planning. During this period, in addition to artistic production, activities related to architectural projects also took off, both in the field of lighting and furnishing; glassworks became internationally recognised in the panorama of contemporary art. The Seguso Archive, arrived in 2012 to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini and destined for the Centro Studi del Vetro, contains thousands of projects attesting to the varied production of the artists and designers who collaborated with the glassworks from 1932 to 1973.
The acquired corpus consists of 22,044 executive drawings and sketches, 25,296 photographs and about thirty production catalogues divided between Showroom catalogues (7 volumes, 1939-1971) with drawings of individual hand-made models, Lighting production catalogues (19 volumes) and Barbier order catalogues (5 volumes).

Objectives

The digitisation and cataloging project of the Seguso Vetri d’Arte Archive aims to enhance the documentary heritage, scientific research and dissemination of materials, thus meeting the criteria of consultation and preservation of original materials. Objectives of the project are also archival description and online publication of the archive.

Developments

1. Material analysis

Material analysis and creation of archival structure and first description

2. reorganisation

Photographic positives on paper: reorganisation

3. labelling

Drawings: cleaning, securing, conditioning and labelling

4. Digitization

Digitization of the entire Archive. 13,311 printed photographs digitised recto/verso for a total of 26,622 files, 22,479 large format drawings digitised double-sided for a total of 44,958 files and 255 very large format drawings (up to 4 metres) digitised recto/verso for a total of 510 files (100%) segmented with algorithms

5. Import

Import of data descriptions, metadata and digital images, solution of visualization problems

6. Automatic post production

Automatic post production of the series Illuminazione and Progetti Speciali: ARCHiVe created a new script for automatic post production based on this new dataset and it was launched in July 2022. This step comprehends the export in .jpg for the upload on the cataloging system (xDams) and the extraction of information such as the dimension of the document digitized

© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini
© Fondazione Giorgio Cini

Technologies

Vacuum Table

The vacuum table is a system for acquiring two-dimensional documents. Created within Fondazione Cini, gives a response to the need to digitise large-format documents, delicate, creased or folded. The [...]