Bollettino ICR – n°5

Dossier: Digital documentation from Michelangelo to Cimabue

Whose task is it to put together documentation? What sort of working relationship exists between document specialists and computer application programs? What are the needs and requests of restorers and preservation experts in terms of what computer programs and document specialists can provide? More to the point, is it really necessary to make use of computer documentation? And if so, what are the advantages compared to the tried and tested traditional methods? Carrying out a state-of-the-art project would be a daunting task if it were not possible to make appropriate use of filtering mechanisms to highlight the events and experiences of major significance and of widespread application, sometimes at the expense of excluding those of more obvious success. The dossier, cured by Giancarlo Buzzanca and Francesca Piquè, puts forward a view that is first methodological, then historical, before turning to some very recent case-studies, and finally pointing out guidelines for experimentation. Broadly speaking, the Dossier seeks to explore how and in what way advanced technologies for digital documentation can influence and bring about changes in the approach to documentation as a discipline. In particular, attention is focused on the relationship between the users – those who work in the field of cultural heritage preservation – as well as the providers, suppliers and computer documentation specialists who are fully aware of the potential of this new technology. Their cooperation is essential in order to make it possible to set up a virtual circuit that is able to define why and how, and therefore what tools should be used for putting together documentation. Framework and content should be designed hand-in-hand, says author Salvatore Settis. The goal has to be that of training a documentation specialist who is able to make full use of commercially available software tools to record graphic and nongraphic data, and who is able, ideally, to conceive and put forward guidelines for their implementation and day-to-day management. Author Paola Moscati gives an overview of the historical development of the computer-assisted approach to preservation, by presenting an evaluation of the relationship between traditional methods of archaeological research and the theoretical aspects of computer applications. The paper by author Filippo Petrignani provides a step-by-step reconstruction of the prospects for development contained in embryo within the prototype experience on the Sistine Chapel in the 1980s. Author Simon Warrack recounts the organization of a documentation system directly controlled by the restorer, or at any rate set up directly on site with computer equipment. The project involved surveying the state of preservation of the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia. Author Harrison Eiteljorg II explains how CAD software is not only a graphic aid but also a tool for handling numerical data, up to the point of three-dimensional modelling. Techniques such as automated mapping and geographical information systems (GIS) represent the main and most promising path of development in the field of digital documentation relating to preservation. Author Paolo FrancescoDi Giacomo discusses ways of integrating databases with information of a vector or raster type. His paper expands on the one by author GrazianoCerica who deals with the subject of metadata and the problem of documenting documentation. Authors Florian Petrescu and Helena Murariu focus on the user/producer relationship, with their description of a special GIS application for wall paintings. The final section of the dossier deals with applications specially designed to aid the task of documentation and restoration, through very advanced research on computer languages, and on the nature of the user/producer relationship. The paper by author Francesco Forte illustrates some of the systems and applications for virtual reality as used in the field of documentation and spatial modelling of cultural heritage items. Author Salvatore Accardo describes the technical features of the main systems for surveying and processing data, with an eye on the possibility of applying digital technology systematically in order to set up numerical 3D archives for sculpture. The dossier comes to an end with the description of the work carried out in Assisi, supervised by Giuseppe Basile, for the recomposition of the frescoes destroyed by the earthquake.