Visual Humanities

Art and culture, at their best, lie in the act of discovery: seeing what is hidden and rejecting the fallacy that what we see is all there is. Almost every great piece of art, artifact, or site has something hidden within it, invisible to the naked eye. Paintings have pentimenti — those rough drafts that the artist regrets and paints over; manuscripts have palimpsests or scratch-outs — text that is covered up or overwritten; and buildings and archeological sites are a world of unexpected labyrinths. Discovery is central to culture and art but is under-supported technology-wise. The COVID-19 pandemic further disrupted humanities institutions by closing museums, libraries, archives, and schools, thereby cutting off the main ways that people learn about the past.

We develop photogrammetry, 3D imaging, and visualization systems to allow for user-centric exploration in both casual consumption and scientific research of cultural heritage. Our tools and systems facilitate archaeological excavations and enable historical and structural research.

Multispectral Scheimpflug Imaging

There are many ancient manuscripts, sometimes entire collections, that have never been properly studied simply because the books can’t be opened. One could, of course, open them and photograph them and destroy the object. Most libraries aren’t willing to do this. We present an imaging system that reads texts from books that open less than 30 degrees and whose paper quality is degraded. In particular, the system operates on the Scheimpflug principle to correct the geometric distortion necessarily introduced when imaging barely open books.

[IST Archiving 2022] Multispectral Scheimpflug: Imaging Degraded Books that Open less than 30 Degrees

Digital Elmina

A collaborative project between University of Rochester and University of Ghana, the Digital Elmina project aim to record, analyze, visualize, and eventually preserve Ghana’s cultural heritage sites, including Elmina Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site and the first European slave trading base constructed in Sub-Saharan Africa. This project is partially supported by a Digital Humanities Advancement Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

[IST EI (VDA) 2022] Digital Reconstruction of Elmina Castle for Mobile Virtual Reality via Point-based Detail Transfer


More than ninety percent of the objects in museums around the world will never be seen by the public, either for the lack of display space or because of damage or fragility. We envision a future where visualization platforms turn every museum and archive into an open university. To achieve that vision, Resurrect3D provides not only the basic visualization and interaction capabilities, but also the customizability that allow domain experts to develop artifact-specific analysis and visualization tools.

[SIGGRAPH Web3D 2021] Resurrect3D: An Open and Customizable Platform for Visualizing and Analyzing Cultural Heritage Artifacts