Book Reviews

Digital Heritage: Applying Digital Imaging to Cultural Heritage

J. Electron. Imaging. 16(1), 019901 (15 03, 2007). doi:10.1117/1.2714960
History: Published 15 03, 2007
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Open Access Open Access

The mantra of the heritage community today is to deliver its content to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. Museums all over the world are or are in the process of publishing online paintings, books, and renditions of three-dimensional artifacts and architectures. Digital Heritage is a book dedicated to the technologies needed to implement this vision and the digital imaging technologies needed to preserve historical content. In most areas of the book, case histories are presented, making the book interesting as well as informative.

The book is valuable not only to the conservationist, but also to any content providers interested in understanding the imaging techniques provided for the acquisition and presentation of this kind of data. I believe that as the Internet moves to the next level, many of the topics provided in this book will be of value to this wider audience. The heritage community is concerned with the presentation of a variety of data types while simultaneously maintaining an accurate rendition of the original. Commercial concerns will likely follow the lead established by the heritage community in the near future, as the Internet increasingly becomes a place to explore the physical world as well as the abstract world.

The book has used leading authorities to contribute 20 chapters. The technical content of the book is at a mid- to upper-undergraduate level, but because of its breadth, the book would be equally valuable in a graduate setting. The book is written extremely well despite the plurality of authors. Illustrations are in full color and of the quality one would expect from preservationists.

The book is organized in three parts. Part I deals with user requirements, which details public access needs, current digitization efforts (primarily in Europe), and requirements for digitization in workflows. Part II deals with digital imaging technologies, including database design and access, digital rights (covered lightly), image processing, sensors, infrared imaging, color management, image quality, compression (including an overview of the benefits of JPEG2000), sampling, and the history of camera technology. Part III deals with applications. These applications include the imaging of library documents, museum objects, fine-art paintings, historical photographs, and sculptures.

Many readers of this journal are well versed in the image processing algorithms presented in this book. Regardless, the book is concise and stands well alone as a practical reference. I found the discussions on the differences between CMOS and CCD imaging very valuable, as well as the extremely lucid discussion of the evolution of the film camera to today’s electronic cameras. It is very difficult to find a single reference that covers how a digital camera processes color, tone, noise, resolution, and other qualities and also manages to compare and contrast these newer concepts to the older film-based systems. The chapter entitled “Principles and evolution of digital cameras” does this extremely well.

Many of us may be comfortable reading a paper on creating a synthetic reality for a video game and less comfortable with the idea of imaging an historical architectural site for posterity. In the near future these two sciences may well converge. The heritage community is currently busy designing and testing imaging robots that attempt to capture all image aspects of an historical site or artifact. Case histories are provided for the VITRA (veridical imaging of transmissive and reflective artifacts) robotic system. This section would be a beneficial read for anyone interested in the science of preserving architectural history or in creating a virtual world based on real components.

Sometimes the best road to product innovation lies not in technology but in design. The heritage community has a tall order in that to make an online experience exciting, the interface needs to at least perceptually emulate most aspects of seeing the real thing in a relatively small area. This book has a chapter, “Making online monuments more accessible through interface design,” dedicated to interface design for virtual museums. This chapter is interesting in that it describes ideas on how to extend this perception of reality by augmenting the real thing by virtual peripheries unbounded by museum walls.

Chris Honsinger is a senior principal scientist in the Photographic Science and Technology Center at Kodak’s Research Laboratories. His current interests are in digital image and signal processing and in sensor optimization.


"Digital Heritage: Applying Digital Imaging to Cultural Heritage", J. Electron. Imaging. 16(1), 019901 (15 03, 2007). ;




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