Sunday, 1 April 2012

Information and Documentation Management

Information and Documentation Management March 19 -22, 2012
This week we have been concentrating on various methods of documentation including the basic and complex equipment that can be used when doing a building assessment. Basic equipment can include a tape measure, clipboard, paper, pencils & pens, binoculars, camera with a lens cleaning cloth and tripod, string and a plumb bob and a torpedo level. This very basic equipment can assist you in gathering a great deal of pertinent information with minimal expense that can be of immense assistance when planning what type of interventions should be taking place or if more complex and expensive surveys should be undertaken.
Photographic processing that can be implemented to get different information include monoscopic, monoscopic pictorial, stereo pairs, thermal imaging, panoramic (QTUR) and other really interesting tools that you can implement that are not expensive but can yield good diagnostic results. It is all pretty impressive.
One of the instructors also introduced the class to a perspective rectifier that takes a camera image and rectifies it. This means that the program flattens the image so that you can use it in other programs such as AutoCAD. Why would you have to do this? Well cameras due to the lens and mirrors required to produce a picture curve the image. IF you just take the image in this state and import it into a program like AutoCAD the image is distorted and the scale and correct dimensions also are distorted.
We also were instructed to take our pictures at an ISO of 100 preferably, but 200 is acceptable. The reason is that the image quality is better at this low ISO setting. Shooting in RAW format is also better as the image can then be easily manipulated within a program like Photoshop.
Some of the neat types of photography that we talked about involved LEAP, Low Elevation Aerial Photography. The idea is that by using a balloon or even in some cases model airplanes and helicopters you can perform an aerial survey without the expense of renting a pilot and airplane and that you can manipulate easily the area that you want to see from above. This seems to be a newer and upcoming area of gathering information.

Street entrance to courtyard

Courtyard with fountain. The portico and entrance.
Moving on from some of the technical stuff we have been studying to the group work/project that we were asked to perform. There is a church very close to ICCROM called St. Cecilia. The church is dedicated to a woman, her husband and her brother who were martyred for being Christian. It was long supposed that she was a noble lady of Rome who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230, under the Emperor Alexander Severus.

The research of Giovanni Battista de Rossi, however, appears to confirm the statement of Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers (d. 600), that she perished in Sicily under Emperor Marcus Aurelius between 176 and 180. A church in her honor exists in Rome from about the 5th century, was rebuilt with much splendor by Pope Paschal I around the year 820, and again by Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati in 1599.
The methods of executing St Cecilia were on the scale of horrific. First she was boiled alive for 3 days, but she did not die. Then the Romans attempted to behead her, but this also failed so they left her for 3 days to bleed to death. When her body was found many years later it was uncorrupted laying in the position that she supposedly died in. Her outstretched hands had three fingers extended, two on one hand and one on the other indicating her belief in the holy trinity. Her remains were moved to the location of St. Cecilia believed to be her home and were reinterred there.

There is a beautiful sculpture by Stefano Moderno, made of white marble of St Cecilia in the alter area of the church. The artist stated that when her tomb was opened in 1599 this was the state of condition and position of her body.

 Another interesting fact is that there are days when sitting in class that I can hear the braying of sheep. This is because the sisters raise the sheep in the cloistered gardens and the wool is used to make cloaks for new archbishops. The Pope consecrates the sheep every year on January 21st.  I find it moving that this long tradition continues even as Rome continues to grow and become more and more modern all around this little island of religious purity.

Now that you have a little background surrounding the church and the patron saint of music, I will explain the assignment given to the class. We were broken up into 4 groups of 5 and in some cases 6. We were asked to spend almost 2 days documenting the tomb stones that had been reinstalled into the floor of the church in 1599. Some were hung on the walls of the portico. The idea is that documentary evidence and research could be gathered and done to try and determine who the individuals under the tombs stones were and maybe a little bit about their lives. The assignment also included determining the state of deterioration of the stones, documentation of all the elements of the tombs, including missing elements, if possible translation of the Latin inscriptions and then develop an intervention plan to help conserve these important relics.

The team that I had the pleasure of working with included Kamil, Israel, archaeologist, Barbara, Vatican City, architect, Niramon, Thailand, Architect, Rosilene, Brazil, Conservator, Angela, Italy , expert in marbles and then me. What a great team. We spent a great deal of time gathering information and doing all kinds of photo documentation under a variety of conditions. I did most of the photography, including taking detailed shots of the tombs which I broke down into a 6 inch grid system. This meant there was a huge number of pictures per tomb and we had 7 tombs to document. We then took a special program called Panorama Maker 6 and stitched the photos together to create a very detailed image of the tomb. This allowed the group to have very detailed information including the existing condition of the stone, cracks and chips, deteriorated or missing information. I had to run back and forth a few times to take more pictures to clarify information that the group determined was missing. We then pulled together a power point presentation which we had to present to the rest of the class, the instructors and interns on what we found and our recommendations for immediate and future interventions.

A hard copy of the information we collected will be given to the sisters of the church and hopefully will help guide them with future conservation work. I must admit that it feels pretty good being involved in something first of all so ancient with interesting histories attached to it and second trying to ensure that the information about this small part of the church is not lost forever.


Alter area

Sheep are beside the tin roof left side behind tree


Subterrainian chapel

Church interior

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